LOUDON, N.H.—You could argue that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano have nothing to lose in this year’s Chase because they’ve already lost it.
Both Earnhardt and Logano suffered engine failures last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, and their early exits from the first Chase race cost them dearly in the standings. Earnhardt is 53 points behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth, and Logano trails by 52 points.
That sort of ill fortune, says Jeff Gordon, can change your perspective on the Chase. He should know. In last year’s Chicagoland race, Gordon’s throttle stuck, and he pounded the outside wall—effectively dashing his hopes for a fifth Sprint Cup title.
“Instead of maybe having a game plan where you were going to try to fine tune a set-up, you can just go completely outside the box and just go for broke and make very gutsy calls on pit road,” Gordon said Friday before opening Cup practice for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire. “You can be more aggressive as a driver. The engineers can be more aggressive in the set-up as well. …
“I think that they are looking at it like ‘Listen, unless something miraculous happens, we are not going to be back in this thing,’ to the level that they would like to be. I think there is a part of you that just says ‘’K, let’s just see how high up in points we can get,’ and there is a part of you that says, ‘We go for broke, and if we get on a heck of a roll, we can still do this’.
“You certainly never stop giving up hope.”