Charlotte: Round 12 preview

* Gordon Averaging 181 Points Per Race Over Last 6 Races * Gordon Made 'Left Turn' To Stock Car Racing * Legends Combine: Bill Elliott Driving for Wood Brothers * Kasey Kahne Wants to Start Rebound -- Now Gordon Piling Up The Points DAYTONA ...

* Gordon Averaging 181 Points Per Race Over Last 6 Races
* Gordon Made 'Left Turn' To Stock Car Racing
* Legends Combine: Bill Elliott Driving for Wood Brothers
* Kasey Kahne Wants to Start Rebound -- Now

Gordon Piling Up The Points

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 22, 2007) -- How's this for the definitive scary stat:

En route to taking control of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points lead, Jeff Gordon has averaged an incredible 181 points per race over the last six races. During that time, he has never finished lower than fourth, doing so twice and both times earning 170 points.

Gordon has placed a recent punctuation on an overall surge by Hendrick Motorsports. HMS has had at least one car in the top 10 for the last 40 races; the last outside-the-top-10 event for HMS was April 9, 2006 at Texas -- Jimmie Johnson finished 11th and Kyle Busch 15th.

The last time HMS didn't have at least one top-15 finish? That was 67 races ago, June 26, 2005 at Infineon Raceway.

Storyline I: Open-Wheel Dreams, NASCAR Reality

Born in California, Jeff Gordon was raised in Indiana, which led to the inevitable dreams of driving open-wheel machines and winning the Indianapolis 500. Somewhere along the line dreams took a left turn -- a bunch of them actually -- and he switched to stock cars. That career path has worked out fine.

Gordon has four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championships and has even won four times at what could be called his "adopted" home-state track, the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Growing up, Gordon envisioned himself being at the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend. Instead, he finds himself heading into Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, atop NASCAR's world.

Chase 'Seeding' Watch, Week 12: Johnson, Gordon 1-2

In the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont/Dept. of Defense Chevrolet) and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's/Power of Pride Chevrolet) are 1-2. But as far as their potential "seedings" go for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, those positions are reversed -- for now.

Starting this season, the 12 Chase qualifiers get 10 bonus points for each victory during the 26-race span leading up to the Chase, which consists of the last 10 races. Drivers qualifying for the Chase have their point totals "reset" to 5,000, whereupon bonus points are added, in effect creating "seedings" to start the Chase.

Johnson's four victories thus far will be worth 40 bonus points, provided he doesn't falter dramatically and not qualify for the Chase. Gordon's three victories have him assured of 30 bonus points.

This bigger-than-ever emphasis on winning could end up helping a driver's Chase chances greatly, and make up for a so-so overall season coming into the last 10 events.

Example: Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet) is 11th in the standings this week. But because he is one of four drivers with one victory this season, in the prospective Chase start-up standings this week, he's tied for third behind Johnson and Gordon with a potential total of 5,010 points.

The Rest Of The Stories: Johnson And Kahne Dominate, Elliott-McSwain Make Combo Return

Some additional storylines to consider, coming into the Coca-Cola 600 weekend:

* Jimmie Johnson should top anyone's list of favorites for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. Over the last four years at Lowe's Motor Speedway, he has never finished lower than third. During that eight-race span he has five victories, including a memorable four-in-a-row run covering 2004-05. Last year he was the runner-up in both series races at LMS.

* If Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) is going to start a rally, Lowe's Motor Speedway would seem like the likely place. Kahne, trolling at 30th place in the series standings, has yet to win this year. Contrast that to last season when he won a series-high six times -- including a season sweep of the two LMS races. Heading into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Kahne has managed only one top-10 finish -- a seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500. But there have been signs of life; Kahne has climbed from 36th to 30th over the last seven weeks.

* The "semi-retired" Bill Elliott is back, driving one of the sport's most recognizable entries -- the Wood Brothers' No. 21 U.S. Air Force Ford. Elliott will drive on a race-by-race basis beginning with Sunday's Coca-Cola 600. The 1988 series champion, Elliott has 44 wins, 175 top-five and 320 top-10 finishes in 756 career starts. He cut back to a partial schedule following the '04 season. Elliott comes in at a nice time for the Wood Brothers. The No. 21 team is 39th in car owner points; only the top 35 teams in those standings get guaranteed starting berths -- unless you have a driver who is a past series champion. A team can exercise the "past champion provisional" up to six teams during the season. With another former titlist, Dale Jarrett (No. 44 UPS Toyota), having used up his allotment, Elliott will have that provisional to fall back on -- that is, if he needs it. Joining this rejuvenated effort will be veteran crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwain, who has been serving as the Wood Brothers' competition director.

On The Line: Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne was the lead-off guest Tuesday, in the weekly NASCAR Teleconference. Kahne comes into this weekend 30th in series points, struggling to find his form of 2006.

Following are some of the highlights of Kahne's conversation with media from across the country.

Q: Is this a good time to return to Lowe's Motor Speedway, where you won twice last year?

Kahne: "We're working hard to get back where we were [last year]. Hopefully, sooner than later, we'll start figuring things out. We've made gains every week for the last month. I think we'll be better this weekend and hopefully we'll have a shot at a top 15 at the end of the night."

Q: Right now, are you trying to just find consistency?

Kahne: "More than anything, it is the consistency [we need]. Yeah, we want to win races but you don't come from finishing 20th or 25th to suddenly winning races again. It seems like you have to make your way [back] up there. You want to figure things out as quickly as you can but it takes time. I just want to start getting back in the top 10, top 15. Once you start doing that, you'll have your opportunities of races unfolding and working out for you."

Q: Is there a sense of urgency on your team?

Kahne: "Yeah ... people can get frustrated, or they can get focused and do the best jobs they can and not get down. I was feeling like I was getting down a little bit a few weeks back. "But now I feel like I'm where I need to be. I'm just trying to keep our guys motivated and working on things we need to work on. If we keep doing that, it'll get better for sure."

Q: What are some of the specific problems your team has been having this year?

Kahne: "We're just missing on set-ups. That's all there is to it. We have lots of power. I think we have really good race cars. It's just a matter of set-up and getting the car to work around the tires we're running. "Last year we had it figured out. This year we haven't."

Q: Is it too late to still think you can make the Chase?

Kahne: "It's getting further and further away but it's still something we can shoot for, if we get on a big roll. If we can get on a streak with a bunch of top 10s, some consistent finishes in a row, lead laps, there's still definitely a shot to get in there."

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Kyle Busch