DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In Saturday night’s 400-miler, Jeff Gordon prefers MAX over zero.
Nine races remain until the “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup” field is set and Gordon is currently 18th in the point standings. While he is 180 points out of the lead, the 85-time race winner is only 11 points – plus one win – out of a Chase berth entering the summer event at Daytona International Speedway.
“We want to get in the Chase bad and we know we have to win races to do it,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Pepsi MAX Chevrolet. ”Max points is what we’re going for – this weekend and every weekend.
“Prior to the race, you don’t change your strategy based on where you are in the standings. It’s just business as usual trying to put the fastest race car on the track and preparing to win races, and that is no different than what we’ve been doing all year long.
“But your mindset may change when you get into the race and you have to make a risky call.”
Gordon is no stranger to Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile high-banked track. In 39 starts, he leads all active drivers with six wins. In addition, Gordon has three poles, 12 top-fives and 19 top-10′s. But start No. 40 at the Florida track brings a new set of challenges.
“We don’t know what kind of racing we are going to have at Daytona,” said Gordon, the all-time leader in restrictor-plate victories with 12. ”Based on February (here) and based on (the other restrictor-plate track) Talladega – given the challenges we had with tandem racing – we now have equal or greater challenges.
“And one of those challenges – managing (engine oil and water) temperatures – will be crucial during the race on Saturday night.”
Pack-style racing also creates more opportunities for the drivers according to Gordon.
“I enjoy this type of racing more,” said Gordon, comparing racing in packs versus tandem two-car drafting. “I think this way gives the drivers the opportunity to create more chances instead of relying on the car you’re pushing or the one that is pushing you. [Pack drafting] brings things back into our hands.
“It’s going to be exciting at the end, but you have to be there. And that is what we’re working hard on.
“Being there at the end when it counts.”