Time is Now for Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon has scored seven top-10 finishes in his last nine races heading into this weekend's SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire. (Photo: Getty Images)

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LOUDON, N.H. - This weekend should be when Jeff Gordon makes his move in the championship race.

Should be.

He enters Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway seventh in the standings, but he’s run better here than many of the drivers ahead in the points.  So yes, this could be a weekend that Gordon - who has not finished worse than 11th in his last seven races at this track - gains ground.

After starting last in the expanded 13-driver Chase, he needs to climb the standings quickly or risk falling too far behind.  Even after his Chicagoland run, Gordon is 24 points behind series leader Matt Kenseth.  The most a driver can gain on another in the field is 47 points.

"It’s about capitalizing on that opportunity," Gordon said Friday.  "Doesn’t guarantee anything.  Doesn’t make the job any less hard.  We’re going to have to fight and claw like we have all year long.

"What’s nice is when you claw and you fight and, all of sudden, you start to see your cars running better and your pit crew putting good pit stops together and your restarts are better, the results are better."

Gordon and his team are showing a level of consistency not seen most of this season.  He’s scored seven top-10 finishes in the last nine races.  His Chicago run marked his fourth consecutive top-10 result.  The team has shown more speed and avoided the issues that hindered it earlier in the season.

"We have had missed opportunities and it’s hard to always put your finger on what exactly has caused those things," Gordon said.  "All I do know is that this team is ready to step up.  They did at Chicago.  I mentioned that we were probably going to surprise some people and I think we will.  Coming out of Chicago with a solid finish was important to us."

It was much different than a year ago, when a stuck throttle sent him into the wall while running in the top five.  He finished 35th and entered this race last in the Chase, his title hopes all but over.

Now that he has a chance, Gordon seeks to take advantage.

"We want to show everyone why we are in it and what we can do," he said.

It also doesn’t hurt that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team recently tested at this track.  Testing worked for Joe Gibbs Racing at Chicagoland Speedway.  It was among the teams that tested there before last weekend’s race and Kenseth won.

While Gordon and his team come to New Hampshire energized, Kenseth is taking a more cautious approach.  This hasn’t been the best track for him.  He has two top-10 finishes in his last 11 New Hampshire starts.  He finished ninth in July in his first race at this track with Joe Gibbs Racing.

It’s a sign of what he’s learned from teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, and the rest of the team.

"They’re both really different from each other, so I think that has really helped me this season look at things in a different light," Kenseth said.  "All three of us are different and we complement each other."

The question is if he’s learned enough to keep the field, including Gordon, behind him another week in the Chase.

Related Topics:

Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Sprint Cup

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