Gordon Revved For Indy

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is looking to win his fifth Brickyard 400 on Sunday on what will be "Jeff Gordon Day" in Indianapolis. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

INDIANAPOLIS - Twenty years after his first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 10 years after his most recent victory at the historic track, Jeff Gordon remains a favorite this weekend.

Ponder that.

How many athletes remain a threat to win two decades later? How often in NASCAR have drivers faded one decade, let alone two decades, after their first win and become non-factors? Gordon continues to evolve and thrive, entering this weekend’s Brickyard 400 as the points leader and focused on another victory.

“There's no doubt I feel like this is the best chance that we've had at winning this race legitimately with the speed of the car as we've had in a very, very long time,’’ said Gordon, who has scored six top-10 finishes in the last seven races at Indy.

Since winning the inaugural Brickyard 400, Gordon has married, divorced, remarried, had two children, won four championships, claimed 88 wins and watched the series go from Winston Cup to Nextel Cup to Sprint Cup.

That his four championship trophies say Winston Cup champion fuels him since he’s not won a Sprint Cup title under the Chase format.

It’s too early to say if this will be his year. The new Chase format likely will create some surprises with its elimination format, but based on how he’s performed this year, Gordon can’t be discounted.

Unlike the past two years, Gordon arrives to his adopted hometown - which proclaimed that Sunday will be “Jeff Gordon Day’’ in Indianapolis - without having to worry about making the Chase. The past two seasons, Gordon has had to fight all the way to Richmond and then some to make the Chase. NASCAR added him to the Chase last year two days before it began because of the actions of Michael Waltrip Racing at Richmond.

Should Gordon claim his fifth Indianapolis victory, he’ll clinch a Chase spot provided he attempts to qualify each of the races before.

“We've not had maybe this strong of cars in the last few years, but we also had some really unfortunate circumstances work against us,’’ said Gordon, who in the past two seasons has had possible wins derailed by contact with a teammate, mechanical issues, getting wrecked by another competitor and other issues.

“This year, our cars and our team is better and maybe that's why good things are happening for us. We're putting ourselves in good positions. I've always said you make your own luck and I think we're doing that this year because we're running up front, we're qualifying up front. We're making smart decisions.’’

For all that, Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson have done this year, they’ve combined for only a win at Kansas in May.

“We look at our competitors and we know that we haven't won the most races and we need to win more,’’ said Gordon, battling a sinus infection this weekend. “So we're taking what we've done so far and looking at the positives and how good it is, and we're enjoying that but we're also working really, really hard because we want to be the best out there. I feel like even though we're leading the points with this new point system, we've got to be better than this if we're going to win the championship.’’

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