Head Start Helps Gordon

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The head start that Jeff Gordon got on the 2006 season is paying dividends.

When Gordon missed last year's "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup," his team immediately went into a planning mode for this season, a move that has paid off early in this year's championship run.

"We started on 2006 last year through these last 10 races of last year," Gordon said after his third place run in Sunday's Dover 400. "We came into the season, we sat at Hendrick Motorsports during the big media tour and I think I said it then and I continue to attribute things to this is that we had some new members, some young guys, a rookie crew chief, a lot of new guys on the pit crew and a team that hasn't been up to their full potential of what Hendrick Motorsports offers over the last couple years and that doesn't turn around overnight. It builds and it builds and once you get good chemistry then you've got to make sure that the performance of the cars and the engines and the pit crew and everything else goes along with it."

"And that's what we had pretty early on with Steve Letarte last year was we started building on chemistry very, very easily. Just his attitude, he's got this great attitude and he's sharp."

Gordon's two straight third place finishes to start the "Chase" has moved him within six points of leader Jeff Burton.

It's an impressive start especially considering Loudon and Dover haven't been favorites of Gordon's in recent years.

"Last time we were here we were not that good and today we were better, still not good enough to be battling for the win but to take a car like that, a seventh- or eighth-place car and come out of here with a third-place finish," Gordon said. "I know some guys had misfortune but we had a top five legitimately on our own and a lot of it had to do with his calls in the pits and pit strategy and different things that we did there. I'm pumped; I can't wait to go to Kansas."

Gordon and the No. 24 team really started to put things together around the middle of the season and the four-time champion hopes it continues through the "Chase."

"t started in the beginning of the summer and really started coming into it's own at the end of the summer and I can't think of a better time for it all to really start to come together which is now, in the 'Chase,'" Gordon said. "Obviously we've had two guys in the Chase win the last two races. We've got to put ourselves up there on the board as well; as far as I'm concerned we can keep doing what we're doing but I want to battle for wins as well."

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