CONCORD, N.C. – If Jeff Gordon is going to be in the Chase for the Championship, he has to shift to Plan B.
He knows he probably can’t qualify for the playoffs as a top 10 driver. That leaves one final option – winning races and getting in as a wild card.
Gordon heads into Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ranked 24th in points, 96 behind 10-place Carl Edwards. He would have to pass 14 other drivers to get in the customary way.
“So, to me it’s about winning races and I know that we’ve been capable of winning races this year even though the results don’t show for it,” Gordon said. “I don’t know what the secret is to figure why things haven’t gone our way. We need to change our luck; change something we’re doing. I feel like our cars are good. We’re running competitively and all we can do is just go to the next race and keep working to improve and get some breaks to go our way.
“There’s no doubt (if) you win two or three races, you’re in the Chase. So we’re not counting ourselves out of the Chase at all.”
Car owner Rick Hendrick said before the season started he would be disappointed if all four of his drivers – Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – didn’t move into the Chase for the final 10 races.
He hasn’t given up on that plan.
“If you look at Jeff Gordon, I think he’s led the second‑most number of laps of anyone out there and I think he’s run the fastest, he had all the fastest laps,” he said. “So when Jeff Gordon runs like that, you don’t expect him to be 24th in the points.”
The two drivers with the most victories who haven’t qualified as a top-10 driver also get a spot in the playoffs. Brad Keselowski is 12th in points with two wins and Ryan Newman is 14th win one. If Gordon is going to qualify as a wild card, he still faces a difficult challenge.
“I don’t think there’s too many questions about that fact that we’re shooting for a wild card,” Gordon said. “I mean, we’re pretty far away from the top 10.”
Charlotte rolls out red carpet
Charlotte, N.C., loves NASCAR, and the town will go out of its way this week to prove it.
A three-day festival downtown is part of the lead up to Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Added with the NASCAR Hall of Fame, open houses by most of the race teams and celebrity appearances throughout the area, it’s easy to see why the 600 is so important.
Kyle Petty, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler, Tony Stewart and Scott Speed will be part of Speed Street, which starts Thursday night.
Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing are some of the race teams that will open their doors for fans.
In addition, the men from History Channel’s “Pawn Stars” will be at the track signing autographs.