Jeff Gordon can be forgiven if he’s a bit dizzy from the past three weeks of Chase racing.
The script has gone like this: Gordon finishes third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway but leaves the track 45 points out of the Chase lead – only a two-point gain over the previous week. He improves one spot to second at Dover but actually loses three points to the leader and is 48 back. Sunday at Talladega he finishes second in the mess that was the final lap but gains only six points on Brad Keselowski.
Bottom line – Gordon has finishes of third, second and second in the past three races and has outdriven every other Chaser from the average-finish perspective but remains virtually a full race out of first place with only six to go.
He started the Chase only 12 points back and, despite having top-three runs in three of the four races to date, he now trails by 42.
To say it’s been a bizarre Chase for Gordon is to understate the matter.
“After today, it's a little frustrating,” Gordon said at Talladega Sunday. “Our team is doing a great job. We've been performing really, really well. We can sit there and really get mad about what happened in Chicago (a crash and a 35th-place finish), but the reality of it is all we can do is go each and every week and keep trying to put ourselves in position to win and get top fives.”
The numbers remain viable for Gordon. If all the right things happen, it’s still possible for him to be in the championship hunt at Homestead, but the five contenders in front of him would have to have their own Chicago-like stumbles.
“It's not over yet,” Gordon said. “It is certainly not over yet. So we'll see what happens. If we keep doing this, I really think we might have a shot at it.”
Another top five is certainly a reasonable expectation for Gordon at Charlotte. He has won five times at the 1.5-mile track and has 16 top-five runs in his 39 races there. His last win, however, came in 2007.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.