Gordon Keeps Rising

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AVONDALE, Az. - The race for eleventh spot in the NEXTEL Cup point standings is actually closer than the battle for the lead.

While Tony Stewart's advantage over Jimmie Johnson is 52 points, Jeff Gordon leads Jamie McMurray by only ten points for the position that pays $1 million at the end of the season.

But despite the large payday at stake, Gordon is chasing wins, not points. He came up a little short of notching another victory on Sunday, when he finished third in the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

After starting eighth, Gordon wasn't a real factor in the first half of the race. But some great pit work by his Hendrick Motorsports DuPont Chevrolet team put the No. 24 in the front of the field in the last 100 laps.

Gordon didn't have enough to challenge race winner Kyle Busch or runner-up Greg Biffle, but was still satisfied with another late season top-five finish, which put him one race closer to the possible $1 million prize.

"We're really not chasing that, but it would be great if we could get it," Gordon said. "We're working for next year and trying to win races. To come out of here third, I'm extremely happy."

Crew chief Steve Latarte made the call to go with two tires for track position on the team's final pit stop, a move that worked to an extent.

"We had two tires at the end and I needed to get clear of those guys ahead of me," Gordon said. "I just couldn't do it. Once those guys on four tires got to me, I knew I was done. But I was surprised we were able to hold onto third. Our car was pretty good on the long runs, so I'm happy with this effort and I'm looking forward to Homestead."

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