Does Jeff Gordon have a winning hand?


Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 FarmVille/Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 24, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Jeff Gordon conceded Friday afternoon that, if he’s going to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, he’s going to have to win another race.

Though he’s 16th in the Cup standings with one victory, and third in line for the second of two wild-card spots in the Chase, Gordon likes his prospects. In poker terms, he thinks he might have a winning hand, given that the race for the Chase will be decided at three tracks he likes — Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond.

“Honestly, I feel like we have pocket aces (for Atlanta) and ace-king suited for Richmond,” Gordon said. “I feel like (Bristol) is a great track for us. We’ve run very well the last two or three times we’ve been here. This is a track we can win at.

“Atlanta, absolutely. We won there last year — another track we can win at. Richmond is a track we have run very well at, but we struggled, but we struggled the last time we were there, so we have some work to do. I still feel like we can get that, improve that. The next three tracks are great for us. They are also good tracks for some other drivers.”

Gordon’s path to the Chase is complicated. He could claim the second wild-card berth without winning a race, provided he leap-frogs over Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch in the standings, provided none of the other wild-card contenders with one victory — Newman, Busch, Joey Logano or Marcos Ambrose — wins a second race, and provided Carl Edwards (12th in the standings and winless) doesn’t get a victory.

Gordon also is rooting for both Tony Stewart (ninth, with three wins) and Denny Hamlin (10th, with two wins) to remain in the top 10 — so that neither of those drivers will have to use a wild-card spot (awarded to the two drivers in positions 11-20 with the most victories, the tiebreaker being position in the standings).

Realistically, Gordon knows what he must do to avoid missing the Chase for the second time since NASCAR’s playoff system was adopted in 2004.

“I think we have to win,” Gordon said. “I feel like we’re right back to where we were before Pocono (where Gordon picked up his only Cup victory thus far).”


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