Gordons Drive For Five

Jeff Gordon completed phase one of his 2006 season plan last Saturday night when he qualified for this year's "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.

After missing last year's playoff run, getting back to championship season was the first priority.

Gordon acomplished that mission at Richmond, despite finishing 31st in the Chavy Rock 'n Roll 400.

"That's the nice thing about the Chase, it's what you do in those first 25 or 26 races, not just one race," Gordon said. "We were just off tonight, but we did survive and we're in the Chase."

Now Gordon can focus on trying to win his fifth title, albeit under a new system.

Gordon's previous four NEXTEL Cup championships came under NASCAR's old format, where points were added up for every race on the 36-race schedule.

This time, Gordon will have to earn a title in a completely different fashion.

"Under the old system, you were battling three or four guys at this point in the season," said Gordon. "The key was to be consistent down the stretch.

"The Chase has changed everything. Now you're dealing with 10 guys and you have to push every week, every race. I don't think our four championships under the old system is an advantage."

But Gordon takes solace in the fact that he's not alone in his quest.

"I'm in the same position as the other nine drivers - trying to win my first championship under this format," he said.

The first challenge comes Sunday in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Although Gordon has won three times in Loudon, his last three starts haven't mustered a finish better than 14th.

"This has been a good track for us in the past, but we didn't run well here in July," said Gordon. "It's all about getting started on a high note, so we'll try a completely different setup package this weekend in an effort to turn it around."

So like the rest of the "Chaser" competitors, a brand new season starts this weekend in New England for Gordon.

"Making it in was a season-long effort, and I'm proud of how this DuPont team performed and improved this year," Gordon said. "We can breathe a little easier this week, but the intensity will pick up this weekend and remain through the final race.

"It's a whole new ball game now."

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2006

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