RICHMOND, Va. — Piece of cake, says Jeff Gordon, when asked about his prospects for making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Well, not really. Gordon is fully cognizant of the challenge in front of him as he tries to fight his way into the Chase. But last year’s experience of doing just that, under arguably more trying circumstances, will serve him well in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Gordon is winless this year and 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, outside the Chase bubble by six points. Last year, he rallied from a lap down at Richmond to edge Kyle Busch for the final Chase spot by three points.
“After last year, this is going to be easy,” Gordon quipped Thursday during media availability for drivers fighting for the final five Chase spots. “We went through so much last year that I think it allows us to be more relaxed, be more prepared, knowing that you’ve got to race as hard as you can to the final lap, until you cross that start/finish line, and it can change every split second.
“We’ve run good in recent weeks, which I’m excited about. We tested here… we didn’t have a great test, I’ll be honest, but I feel like we learned what not to do and made some big changes to improve the car as the test went on, and I think that’s certainly going to benefit us this weekend. This is certainly a track I enjoy, and I think we’re up for the challenge. I’m looking forward to Saturday night.”
Having made the Chase against long odds in 2012, Gordon can approach this year’s battle with confidence.
“I think we were in a tougher spot last year than we are this year,” he said. “The way it prepared us was just knowing that, no matter what happens, you can’t ever give up. You just have to put every bit of effort into every single moment every lap. If the car’s off, you’ve got to work on it, and sometimes take big swings at it.
“If your car’s perfect, don’t get complacent. Pit strategy, as we saw, really played out huge here the last time. Of course, the rain, all that played a factor as well. It’s going to be crazy and intense, and there’s so many factors that play into who’s going to make it in and who’s not. It’s certainly going to be an exciting race to watch and to be a part of.”