Jeff Gordon’s “Revised Drive For Five” is moving along nicely, thank you.
Gordon last won a NASCAR championship in 2001. It was the fourth of his career and few doubted it would take very long before he won a fifth.
Back then, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports team devised a slogan to illustrate their zeal in the quest for another title: “The Drive For Five Is Alive.”
It might have been at the time but over the last 13 years it’s been pretty much on life support.
Well, that might be an overstatement. From 2002-2013 Gordon was, for the most part, a championship contender. He finished out of the top 10 in points only once.
Trouble was he never got close enough in contention to make a title bid.
He’s close enough now.
Gordon rose to No. 1 in the point standings after Texas in early April and remained there save for three weeks.
He won his third race of the season at Michigan in August and that assured him a position as one of 16 starters in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
It was at Richmond that Gordon lost his potential No. 1 seed in the Chase. Brad Keselowski dominated the race to earn his fourth win of the year and become the top dog in the Chase.
Then Keselowski won again in the Chase’s first race at Chicagoland for his fifth win of the year. The victory also assured him a place in the second elimination round of the Chase, which will begin at Kansas with 12 drivers.
Ah, but Gordon has kept pace. He was second to Keselowski at Richmond and again at Chicagoland, where he was a victory contender until Keselowski made a split pass between Gordon and Kyle Larson.
Gordon remains second in points and by all accounts should have no difficulty moving into the next round. As said, 10 others will join him and Keselowski.
Gordon has often expressed his confidence over his and his team’s performance this year, saying it’s been steady and capable of victory – and more.
He added that if he could remain consistent in the Chase, it might make all the difference.
“I once said nine runnerup finishes could do the trick,” Gordon said. “Well, eight more and I’ll be really happy.
“But you want to get the win. It was tough out there because I’ve been here before, running up front, having a really good start to the Chase, then have had problems, clawing our way from there.
“While you can move to the next level with that happening, you almost kind of have to win after that.
“So I think this is great for us to come out of here really solid and with a great second place finish.”
Gordon was in contention for the victory at Chicagoland but a late-race restart made all the difference. It helped give Keselowski the means he needed to win.
“It all changed there just because of a restart,” Gordon said. “I kind of got to Kyle’s bumper there. I was just trying to keep guys from taking me three wide, then the outside lane kind of came.
“That got Kevin and Kyle side by side. They were swapping back and forth. I mean, Keselowski, he dove into the middle lane where there was some clean air. I was more surprised he got up in front of Kyle.
“If it comes down to a short run like that, it’s hard to beat them. I thought we were close. Just needed to be a little bit better.
“I’m not going to complain too much with second because I’ve come out of here before much worse. This is a great way for us to get going.”
His Chase is moving along splendidly; the “Revised Drive For Five” is definitely alive.
As far as Gordon is concerned there’s only one real way to get better.
“I think we all agree if you get a win early on, it puts you in a very comfortable position, similar to earlier in the season,” he said. “If you got a win, that was going to lock you into getting in the Chase.
“It just puts you in the mindset of looking ahead, planning, better preparation for races coming up.
“But it doesn’t stop you from racing for a win.”