Remarkable run at Richmond has shaped Jeff Gordon’s Chase plan

 

Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, points during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 7, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

CHICAGO, Ill.—In his dramatic run to the final Chase position last Saturday at Richmond, Jeff Gordon got a glimpse of the future.

The amazing turnaround of a car that was junk when the race started but capable of driving through the field to second place by the time it ended provided a blue for the way Gordon will run the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

In Gordon’s view, falling off the lead lap into the 27th spot before rain stopped the race for 51 minutes might have been a blessing in disguise. Under caution during the rain delay, Gordon’s crew disconnected the rear sway bar, making a quantum improvement in the handling of the No. 24 Chevrolet.

“Sometimes, actually, it’s the best thing that can happen to you,” Gordon said of the car’s poor performance early in the race. “The worst thing that can happen is you being 10th, because you’re like, ‘OK, we’re 10th, or sixth, and we’ll just fine-tune. We don’t want to lose track position, and we’re just going to fine-tune air pressure, little adjustments,’ and you never really get it where it needs to be.

“When you’re 20-whatever and a lap down, you go, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose here. It’s all or nothing. Let’s make some wholesale, huge changes.’ That’s usually when you have a better chance of actually hitting on something.”

As it turned out, Gordon’s crew hit on just enough to earn the second wild card spot in the Chase by three points over Kyle Busch. And the way the Richmond race played out will shape his Chase strategy.

“What we learned from that is that we’ve got to go out every weekend of these next 10 weeks and be fully committed pursuing winning,” Gordon told the NASCAR Wire Service at the Chase Media Day Wednesday at the House of Blues. “If we’re in fifth, we’ve got to have that same attitude, like we’re 26th. We have got to just absolutely go after it, even if we have to lose track position, (to) get that car where it needs to be.

“If it’s only track position we need, then OK, let’s do that. That’s what we’ve learned, and that’s our goal, and we really don’t have anything to lose.”

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