CHARLOTTE--The NASCAR Sprint Cup series rolls into Loudon, New Hampshire this weekend, and four-time champion Jeff Gordon is in an unbelievable position just one race into the chase for the championship.
At one time, Jeff Gordon was NASCAR's super hero. It seemed every track he raced on, he won at. Surrounded by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Thursday, Gordon may be looking to draw from the heroes in a half shell facing a 47-point deficit in the Sprint Cup Chase for the championship.
“We are certainly not out of it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It has been an uphill battle but we are going to go this weekend and prepare just as we did going into Chicago,” said Gordon.
There is reason to think the deficit can be overcome. Gordon and the rest of the NASCAR universe watched Tony Stewart win zero races in the opening 26 last year, and then bat 500; winning half of the 10 chase races to pick up the title in homestead. Gordon's wreck in Chicago in the chase opener dropped him to 12th overall in the pursuit.
However the reigning champion said no one has been eliminated just one week in.
“I think everybody, I think even Jeff Gordon, although he had a disappointing finish last weekend, can't count himself out. It is just a matter of, everybody can have a bad race. It is way too early to try and predict after one race,” said Stewart.
“I would not say, 'Oh we are going over the next nine weeks going, Oh man we are the team to beat'. But also we are not going to stop and we are not going to give up. We proved this once this year already on how we made it into the chase,” said Gordon.
Consistency has been the name of the game in NASCAR, even before the chase format was introduced. There were years when a driver with the most wins in a season didn't win the title. Stewart may have picked up five chase wins a year ago, but he is quick to point out that isn't the only way to win the championship.
“You still have to get more points over 10 weeks than anybody else. It does not have to be because of a win or multiple number of wins. It is fun to try and guess and see how many the winner is going to have. But that is not what is going to win the championship. You are just going to have to be really good for 10 weeks and have a good average,” said Stewart.
For Gordon, that average will need to be a low single digit the rest of the way.