Gordon Winless, But Happy
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 9, 2014 | 9:45 A.M. EST
"We have been very, very close, so that's why we're excited about those opportunities coming up that we can get a win at." (Photo: Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon is in a good place right now both professionally and personally but he’s still searching for his first victory of the season.
Gordon comes into this weekend’s 5-Hour ENERGY on top of the Sprint Cup Series point standings thanks to a strong start to the year. Although he’s not taken a checkered flag yet through the first ten races of the campaign, there’s a positive vibe around Gordon these days.
“We're off to a great start,” said Gordon, who has four top five and seven top-10 finishes in 2014. “Right now I'm healthy. I'm in good shape. I'm having a lot of fun. We're very competitive out there. That's taking all of my attention. Besides the time I spend with my family, that's where my focus is.
“Not really thinking of anything else other than maybe the urgency of how important it is to win this season if you're going to win the championship.”
Gordon’s next chance to claim a win and effectively punch his ticket into the Chase comes in Saturday night’s first of two visits to Kansas Speedway. He’s a two-time winner at the track, taking the first two events held at Kansas in 2001 and 2002.
But the 1.5-mile speedway is radically different these days thanks to a repaving and reconfiguration project completed two years ago. Gordon recognizes the new challenges those changes have created but is still a fan of Kansas.
“Kansas has always been one of my favorite racetracks,” he said. “When they repaved it, it moved a little further down my list. It seems like every year we go there, it ages, goes through the winter, gets back to the type of Kansas that I excel at, that I really like.
“The transitions are all still there. The variable banking is always a plus. But what I'm most excited about, and this is true for every track we're going to, is how good of a race team we have right now. Everywhere we go we have competitive cars. We don't always start the weekend out that way. Some weekends we unload and we're just fast and it stays that way throughout the whole weekend, and others we've had to really work at it.”
This year’s new Chase format allows for the driver leading the points at the end of the regular season to make the playoff field even without having scored a win. So Gordon could still have a shot to run for the title if he can maintain the top spot over the course of the next 16 races and still not make it to Victory Lane.
However, the four-time champion is still completely focused on erasing the zero in the win column and acknowledges what a difficult proposition that presents.
“I've never seen winning be so important as it has this year,” said Gordon. “It doesn't stop everybody from trying just as hard to win. We're all out there working as hard as we can to win. When you get that one win under your belt, I think that one win will get you into the Chase, two wins is for sure going to guarantee you a shot in the Chase.
“But when you get that one or two wins, it just puts you in a place where now it doesn't really matter where you're at in points, and it's just all about getting those bonus points and be the No. 1 seed going into the Chase. You can be more aggressive with everything that you do from here on out.”
Gordon has mixed a combination of fast race cars and aggressiveness into the series point lead and is optimistic taking the next step – winning - is not far away.
“We have been very, very close, so that's why we're excited about those opportunities coming up that we can get a win at,” said Gordon.
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of Saturday's 5-hour ENERGY 400 from Kansas Speedway at 6:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.