Jeff Gordon seeks to gain ground

Jeff Gordon seeks to gain ground

With just two races remaining to decide the 2004 Cup series championship, no one is in better position to pull it off than four-time champion Jeff Gordon. Gordon trails leader Kurt Busch by just 41 points entering one of Gordon's strongest ...

With just two races remaining to decide the 2004 Cup series championship, no one is in better position to pull it off than four-time champion Jeff Gordon. Gordon trails leader Kurt Busch by just 41 points entering one of Gordon's strongest venues.

Jeff Gordon.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
Gordon, who leads all active drivers with six victories at 'the lady in black', admits that since the track reconstruction to add safer walls it's anyone's race.

"The soft walls took 30 inches of the racing groove away that we didn't have to begin with," Gordon said. "It's definitely a tough track to race. You have to race the racetrack."

"By racing the track there are times when you have to be patient and times when you have to go for it. In ways, we do that every weekend, but here it is just exaggerated."

Gordon is in the nifty seat of being the most experienced of the top ten in how to win a championship. Even under the new points system, Gordon is still the lead contender to be able to pull off some kind of magic over the next two events and secure his fifth ring.

Last weekend was an important rebound for Team 24 who jumped over Dale Earnhardt, Jr. one spot for second after Phoenix. It puts them in the position to overtake Busch leaving Darlington.

"Phoenix was a make or break for us," said Gordon. "We needed a good finish and I am glad we pulled it off. Even though Jr. won the race we still gained points and got momentum."

Despite all his success at Darlington Gordon still has a lot of hurdles to overcome. The last three times the No. 24 Chevy has taken to the track it has been disastrous. Gordon was 41rst here for the spring race, and 33rd and 32nd respectively in the two 2003 events.

In contrast, Busch earned sixth at Darlington in March and Earnhardt was 10th. It puts the pressure on the 24 Hendrick team to hit the set-up off the truck and find the right combination to aide Gordon in his championship hunt.

"Whoever wins this championship this year should be very honored and very proud," Gordon said. "Whoever gets that trophy has really done something."

Jeff Gordon.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
Besides the obvious, Gordon has another reason to work hard for the NEXTEL Cup. After the tragedy of the Hendrick plane crash several weeks ago, nothing would be more welcome than a celebration for that organization.

"It's amazing to me the inspiration he (Rick Hendrick) has been to this whole team," commented Gordon. "For Rick when he is tested the most he rises to the occasion. That is what we are trying to do."

With six wins and 14 top-ten's at Darlington it seems like Gordon can overcome his bad luck here the last few years and rise to the occasion this weekend bringing home a win for Hendrick Motorsports.

"We've got to run in front of those guys," Gordon said. "We've got to run upfront. We've got to win, that's what makes this championship battle so intense right now."

Luckily, Jeff Gordon knows how to do intense.

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Teams Hendrick Motorsports