Jeff Gordon is one of those names that is synonymous with the NASCAR Chase For The Championship, as the four-time series champion has qualified for seven of the eight editions of the NASCAR playoff format.
But the 40-year-old is on the outside looking in at the moment, mired in 18th in the points standings after one of the more hard-luck seasons in recent memory. But as Vince Lombardi said ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity’, and Gordon knows that he has a big opportunity in front of him Saturday night in Daytona.
Gordon is just 11 points and a race win out of snaring a berth in the 10-race Chase – something that interestingly enough, Gordon has never won. With nine races left to run before the playoff format begins, the Hendrick Motorsports driver knows the time is now.
"We want to get in the Chase bad and we know we have to win races to do it," said Gordon. "Prior to the race, you don't change your strategy based on where you are in the standings. It's just business as usual trying to put the fastest race car on the track and preparing to win races, and that is no different than what we've been doing all year long. But your mindset may change when you get into the race and you have to make a risky call."
We want to get in the Chase bad and we know we have to win races to do it.
If the driver of the #24 PepsiMAX Chevrolet is to make a move, there may be no better place than at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. He leads all active drivers with six wins at the World Center of Speed, with 19 top-10 runs in 39 starts. But the recent aero changes in the Sprint Cup cars have made things a tad unpredictable
"We don't know what kind of racing we are going to have at Daytona," said Gordon, the all-time leader in restrictor-plate victories with 12. "Based on February (here) and based on (the other restrictor-plate track) Talladega - given the challenges we had with tandem racing - we now have equal or greater challenges. And one of those challenges - managing (engine oil and water) temperatures - will be crucial during the race on Saturday night."
But as with most of the drivers in the Cup garage, Gordon is pleased with the change that did away with the tandem drafting style that plagued the series last year at the big tracks.
"I enjoy this type of racing more," said Gordon. "I think this way gives the drivers the opportunity to create more chances instead of relying on the car you're pushing or the one that is pushing you. This brings things back into our hands. It's going to be exciting at the end, but you have to be there. And that is what we're working hard on. Being there at the end when it counts."