After finishing second last weekend at Richmond and securing a "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" berth, Jeff Gordon said he felt like he had won the race. Actually, it was nearly three races that he won that night.
Gordon entered the 26th race of the 2012 season trailing the points leader by 145 markers. Now, with the points reset for the 12 title contenders entering Sunday's GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the deficit stands at only 12. That difference equates to almost a three-race gap that was erased in one night.
"It was a great fight we had at Richmond and I am so pumped heading into Chicago and the rest of the Chase," said the driver of the No. 24 DuPont "20 Years" Chevrolet. "There were a number of times this year when we had strong performances but didn't have the results to go with it. We now have 10 races to pair good runs with good results.
"At Richmond, the determination that (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and this team showed was incredible. Anything is possible from this group.
"Including a championship."
A championship for the No. 24 team in 2012 appeared to be a long shot a dozen races ago. In June, Gordon exited Pocono 22nd in the point standings and 84 points out of 12th place. In the 12 races since, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion recorded one win, six top-fives and nine top-10's in the stretch run that determined the Chase field.
"We finally started putting together some results," said Gordon. "But it still seemed like every time we had a great finish, something would happen that would break our momentum.
"We have three top-three finishes in a row that we're hoping to build on in Chicago."
In 11 starts at the 1.5-mile Illinois track, Gordon has one win, one pole, six top-fives and seven top-10's. Will his next start deliver a statement?
"You want to come out of the gate strong and get the best possible result you can," said Gordon. "If that's a win, great. If that's fifth, great. A lot can happen during the Chase. To me, 10 weeks is a lot of racing.
"More than a lot of people think."