Four-time NASCAR Champion and driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet for Hendrick Motor Sports has one mission in mind at this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway: He must win in order to lock himself into this year’s championship Chase.
Gordon currently sits second in the Chase point standings and has a 387 point advantage over the 13th position in the standings so would need a win to absolutely lock himself into championship contention. A win at Thunder Valley would not only lock Gordon into the Chase, but it would be the first victory of this season. Gordon has not won since last year when he went to Victory Lane in the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
If ever there was a track for Gordon to experience a win, Bristol would be up at the top of the list. Gordon has five wins, five poles, 14 top-five and 20 top-ten finishes at the 0.533 mile race track. Gordon has also utilized Bristol in the past to put an end to a winless streak. In 2002, Gordon snapped a 31-race winless streak, heading to victory lane under the lights at Thunder Valley. Yet Gordon has seemed to struggle at Bristol recently, especially since the track has been resurfaced. In the last four Bristol races, Gordon has only managed two top-five finishes.
“We’ve struggled here ever since they changed the track,” Gordon said. “I just feel like I had a knack for the old configuration – a groove and a feel and a set up that really worked well for us. Ever since the change, none of that has seemed to work. It’s about reinventing myself as a driver – trying to find a different groove that works and giving good feedback to the team to get the car to work the way we need it to.”
Not only will Gordon have to concentrate on dialing his car in, he will also have to watch out for some of the typical Bristol temper tantrums that occur at the track known for payback opportunities.
One driver that Gordon will undoubtedly have to keep his eye on will be Martin Truex Jr. Gordon and Truex had a major disagreement at the road course race in Infineon and Truex has vowed revenge ever since.
“He just turned me around,” Truex said after the Infineon race. “It’s all right. We’ll get him.”
Truex had vowed to seek revenge at the following race at Loudon, New Hampshire. Although there were some opportunities and some close racing moments, Truex’s payback did not occur, leading to the speculation that this feud may just resurface again this weekend at Bristol.
While Gordon may have his own paybacks to contend with, he will also have to be careful not to be a victim of someone else’s disagreements and revenge intentions. For example, the most recent feud between veteran Ryan Newman and upstart Joey Logano may just have spill over Bristol repercussions.
Gordon acknowledges that when you get 43 Cup cars on the short track at Bristol, there will no doubt be some beating and banging, even with the wider racing surface after the repaving.
“Even though they’ve made the track have wider grooves, it’s still not enough,” Gordon said. “You are going to run out of patience and that causes tempers to flare.”
While Gordon will have his hands full on the track at Bristol, he also is busy off the track, especially tending to his ever expanding family. Gordon, wife Ingrid Vandebosch, and daughter Ella recently welcomed son Leo Benjamin, born August 9th, into their brood.
Gordon also continues his charity work, from the Sounds of Pertussis awareness campaign to fundraising for his own Foundation. Gordon is especially looking forward to a new initiative, running a paint scheme designed by his three-year old daughter Ella and famed NASCAR artist Sam Bass.
Gordon will run the new car, dubbed ‘My Papa’s car’ designed by daughter Ella at the upcoming race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 5th. The die cast of the car will be sold with proceeds benefitting the newly renamed Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.
“I can’t wait to run Ella and Sam’s design and I can’t think of a better way to showcase the new Foundation logo and name on that car,” Gordon said. “Dupont has graciously allowed us to run this scheme during one of their races and I really appreciate their support.”
For this race weekend, however, Gordon will return his focus to that short track at Bristol. While he is most likely salivating over the possibility of a win and a guaranteed spot in the Chase, Gordon can also take solace in the fact that he only needs to manage a margin of 323 points over the 13th place point position and start the next two events to guarantee himself the opportunity to compete for that fifth championship.
Gordon and the rest of his Cup competitors will compete on the short track of Bristol Motor Speedway for the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday, August 21st. The race will be broadcast at 7:30 PM ET on ABC.