At the conclusion of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Jeff Gordon was 13th in the standings and out of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Fortunately, for Gordon, after several days of NASCAR investigation into the actions of Michael Waltrip Racing, Gordon was added to the 2013 Chase as a 13th driver in the interest of fairness by NASCAR CEO, Brian France.
Gordon appeared as if he would make into the Chase without an issue. Michael Waltrip Racing drivers, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers were involved in a scheme to manipulate the outcome of the race and get teammate Martin Truex Jr. into the Chase. A move that could have netted the team millions of dollars in incentives, and season ending point fund money.
Gordon, whose performance had been steadily improving, now had a chance to prove that his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team deserved to be in the Chase. In 30 starts this season, Gordon has seven top-5’s and 15 top-10’s.
Though, Gordon has not found victory lane this season, he opened the Chase with a strong sixth place finish at Chicago. That finish instantly moved him up to seventh in the standings. A slight stumble at New Hampshire left the team with a fifteenth place finish, but managed to only lose one spot in the points.
The Alan Gustafson led team bounced back at Dover with a fourth place finish and survived the chaotic event at Kansas scoring another top-5. Heading into Charlotte the team has rallied to fourth place in the standings and riding the momentum of two straight top-5 finishes, scored the pole position for the Bank of America 500 – 32 points behind leader, Matt Kenseth and 29 back from Jimmie Johnson.
The next task to check off for Gordon is a win. Given the fact that Johnson and Kenseth are running so strong and seem to be mistake-proof, Gordon will need to find victory lane to have a chance at winning his fifth championship.
Gordon seems to be as strong and focused now as he has been in several years. Additionally, the team’s morale is at an all-time high. With the current positive attitude and strong leadership atop the pitbox with Gustafson, this could be Gordon’s best chance to secure championship number five and tie his teammate Jimmie Johnson for third on the all-time championship list.