AVONDALE, Ariz. - While it may be a two-driver battle for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship entering Sunday's AdvoCare 500, Jeff Gordon still has plenty to fight for. And Team DuPont still has plenty of fight left.
Heading into the penultimate event of the season at Phoenix International Raceway, Jeff Gordon is tied for fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings - the highest he has been ranked all season.
"And while we have had some issues in the first eight races of the Chase, there are still spots to be gained and lost. We'll have to fight hard at Phoenix and Homestead to see if we can continue to make up more spots in the standings.
"You have to keep things in perspective and look at the positives. Even though it's not been the year we had hoped for, we have fought hard the entire season.
"All things considered, I think it's pretty impressive we're battling for a top-five finish in the standings." Consider that Gordon has spent more than 82 percent of the season outside the top 10 in points. After engine issues sidelined him in the season-opening Daytona 500, the 86-time winner left the Florida beaches 35th in the standings.
He broke into the top 20 briefly after Las Vegas in March, but setbacks in May had Gordon again outside the top 20 until a sixth-place finish at Michigan in June.
From there, the No. 24 team posted eight top-10 finishes - including a win at Pocono - in the next 11 races to snatch the final spot in the 12-driver "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup."
But the 10-race playoff began with more adversity as the No. 24 Impala hit the turn 1 wall at Chicagoland - with Gordon running fourth - after the throttle stuck.
Five top-10's in the races since, though, has him positioned the highest he has been all season. He will look to continue that climb in Phoenix on a surface and layout introduced to the teams one year ago.
"We haven't done that well (since the track changes), so hopefully we can do better this weekend," said Gordon, who has two wins, three poles, 10 top-fives and 19 top-10's in 27 starts at the Arizona track.
"The groove widened out from last year's race to March, and I'd like to see it widen out even further this weekend.
"But I think track position during the race will be very, very important."
Very important in Gordon's continued ascension in the standings.