Fight To The Finish

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Jeff Gordon will see his healthy NEXTEL Cup Series point lead gone when the "Chase" starts next week, but he can still start the playoffs near the top with a win Saturday night in Richmond.

The four-time series champion brings a 317 point advantage into Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400, the final race before the start of NASCAR's fourth "Chase" championship season next week in New Hampshire.

With the "Chase" seeded based on victories earned in the "regular" season, Gordon would start the playoffs behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, trailing him 5-4 in the victory column.

"I'm just glad we've already clinched a spot and don't have to worry about racing our way in this weekend," said Gordon. "I think our points lead is a credit to how this team has performed this year."

"But we know it's a whole new season once those final 10 races begin. Any one of the 12 drivers can win the championship, which is why the Chase is so exciting."

While not battling for a spot into the playoffs, Gordon believes he'll be in the middle of a tought battle to get into victory lane at Richmond with a group of drivers looking to add a few more bonus points to their total to help their seeding.

"I think this could be a race where guys are really fighting hard to get those bonus points and get positioned a little bit better for the Chase," said Gordon. "It could be just as exciting as guys trying to make it in the Chase."

Gordon has exprienced success at Richmond in the past and has two wins, five poles, 11 top fives and 17 top 10s in 29 career Cup starts.

"I love Richmond," said Gordon. "It's a great track, but it wasn't much fun for us the past couple of seasons," he said, referring to just a 30th place finish as his best effort there in 2005 and 2006.

Although the pressure of making the "Chase" is off, Gordon still expects a battle to the very last lap of the 400 on tap Saturday night.

"We're going in pretty relaxed, but we're going in to fight hard for another victory," he said.

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