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Cup Preview: Gordon takes 'going for broke' mindset to Kansas

June 09, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

When the 2011 Sprint Cup season began, Plan A for Jeff Gordon was to take the traditional route to winning his fifth championship. That is, use fast cars to post good finishes and pile up big points.

Now, however, as the season moves into summer and as the chase to the Chase moves to the halfway point, Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team may be faced with the possibility of having to implement Plan B. And that is to take advantage of the new wild-car rule and win their way into the Chase.

"All we're thinking about is making our car go faster every weekend, trying to get ourselves in position to get those good finishes and hopefully get those wins."

--JEFF GORDON

"We're going for broke to get the W's now," Gordon said last week.

This week, Gordon will be at Kansas Speedway, where getting one of those W's would certainly seem possible.

Gordon has had a lot of success at Kansas, site of Sunday's STP 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX). He won the first two races held at the 1.5-mile tri-oval in 2001 and 2002, and he has been very good there since.

In 10 starts, Gordon has seven top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He has led 204 laps -- fourth best -- and his average finish of 8.5 is second best among active drivers to fellow two-time Kansas winner, Greg Biffle, whose average is 8.1.

"I like that track, I run well at that track," Gordon said. "For whatever reason, to me, it suits my driving style."

At least it has in the past. There will be an interesting difference between Sunday's race at Kansas and all the others that have been held there. Kansas now hosts two Cup races, and the STP 400 is in early June instead of late September or early October. That could cause problems for teams in a sport that is so weather sensitive.

Autumn in the Midwest can mean very cool temperatures and almost always low humidity. The forecast for Sunday at Kansas is for temperatures around 90 degrees and for high humidity.

Gordon, however, seems unconcerned about how the weather will affect the racing.

"We go there in June, it's still a mile-and-a-half, it's still an important race track, still a track we want to win at," he said. "But right now I'm just looking at it, we just have to wait and see the weather conditions. Weather conditions always play a role, but I think tires play a bigger role."

Gordon will start the STP 400 in an unenviable position in terms of points. Kansas is the 13th race in the 26-race regular season, and he is 16th, 29 points out of 10th, the cutoff this year to qualify automatically for the Chase.

He has not had a top-10 finish since Talladega in mid-April. He has as many DNFs as top-three finishes (two) and hasn't finished on the lead lap five of the 12 races.

If he does not start producing better finishes soon -- such as this weekend -- his best chance at making the playoffs is getting one of the two wild-card slots that will go to the two drivers who win the most races and also are in the top 20 in the standings.

Gordon has one victory, which came at Phoenix in the second race of the season. Another this weekend would be huge.

And although he said he would prefer not to get in via the wild card, Gordon also said, "All we're thinking about is making our car go faster every weekend, trying to get ourselves in position to get those good finishes and hopefully get those wins."

If not, there really isn't a Plan C.