GORDON'S GOAL OVERSHADOWS MILESTONE START AT NEW HAMPSHIRE LOUDON, N.H. (September 11, 2007) & ...
GORDON'S GOAL OVERSHADOWS MILESTONE START AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
LOUDON, N.H. (September 11, 2007) Jeff Gordon will become the youngest active driver to reach 500 career starts this weekend when he takes the green flag in the SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. This career milestone will be downplayed, however, because this weekend's event also marks the first race in the 'Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.'
Gordon would be first in the point standings, ahead by 312 markers, if the "old" points system were still in effect. Instead, Gordon is ranked second, behind teammate Jimmie Johnson by 20 points under this season's point system. This year, following last weekend's event at Richmond, the top 12 drivers in the standings had their points reset to 5000 and received 10 additional bonus points for each win they earned in the first 26 events of the season.
"Jimmie was able to gain ground on us in the past two races by winning them both," Gordon said. "Those of us who were locked in were not racing for a consistent top-five or top-10. It was all about getting those bonus points for victories. However, now it's time to race consistently and get the best possible finish we can."
Team DuPont has proved all season long that they are the most consistent team, statistically speaking. They have an average finish of 8.19 this season, the best of any team in the Cup Series. Gordon also leads in the categories of poles (six), top-fives (15), top-10's (21), races led (18), and laps led (1033). In fact, Gordon failed to finish outside of the top 20 only three times (Lowe's, Michigan, and California) and those are the only three times he has failed to finish on the lead lap this season.
"I have an awesome team around me this season," Gordon said. "We communicate so well and we are well-rounded in all areas. I have confidence that we will be a top contender week-in and week-out in these final 10 races, and it starts this weekend in New Hampshire."
Gordon has collected three wins, three poles, 11 top-fives, and 14 top-10's in 25 starts at the 1.058 mile track. He has led at least one lap in 17 races; in fact, he leads all drivers in laps led at New Hampshire with 1141. This is the fourth year that New Hampshire will host the first race of the Chase and it is the third time Gordon has been involved in the NASCAR's version of the "playoffs."
His two previous finishes at New Hampshire, while being involved in the Chase, have resulted in outcomes of seventh and third -- results that could regain the points lead for Gordon following this race.
"Don't expect anything less than a fierce competitor out of me," Gordon said. "I'm fired up and ready to fight for the championship. Being the leader gives you that little advantage over the other 11 drivers involved and helps build stronger confidence in the minds of your team and yourself."
Gordon has won four Cup Series trophies, but those were "Winston" Cups. Gordon does not have a NEXTEL Cup and would like nothing more than to add this to his already impressive trophy collection.
"Being the NEXTEL Cup champion means that you were better than anyone else in the clutch," Gordon said. "You beat 11 other guys who were about even with you in just 10 races. This year's Chase will most likely come down to the last race, but it's about gaining momentum and starting this first race off strong."
And hopefully that means wrapping up the 500th career start with an 80th trip to victory lane.