After a rough summer stretch, Jeff Gordon ended NASCAR's regular season with a solid top-10 finish in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Not locked in the Chase going into the night, Gordon put together a complete race behind the wheel while his pit crew got the job done on pit road.
While Matt Kenseth dominated the night to score his fourth win of the season, Gordon crossed the line seventh, his first top-10 since Pocono in August.
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"It was a really solid night for our 3M Chevrolet," Gordon said after climbing from his car. "I'm really proud of all the guys on the team. The car, I was a little nervous we were hovering around 21st. We made a slight adjustment and, boom, we just started going to the front.
"I don't know if we were a top-five car, but we were definitely a top-10 car, and finished seventh," he said. "I'm just so excited we had a solid night on pit road, on the racetrack with the race car. Communication, everything was just really solid. That gives us something to be excited about over these next 10 races."
With Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing dominating the series as of late, Gordon admitted Hendrick Motorsports is behind the competition going into the Chase, but said the organization is working hard to close the gap.
"We're behind; we know that," said the four-time Sprint Cup champion. "There's a lot of ways to make it to Homestead, and there's a lot that can happen. We're working as hard as anybody to try and see what we can do better, learn from our competitors and try to catch up. We're definitely playing catch-up."
With pressure mounting in the past few weeks, Gordon can rest easier after capturing his 11th Chase berth in 12 years.
"It's nice to be in the Chase and to take that relief and take that breath, reset and see what we can do in the next 10 (races)," he said.
"This is a lot of pressure in this final season to make this Chase. I'm glad we finally got that done."