Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gordon Makes Statement as "Drive for Five" Continues

 credit: Beth  Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
In the week between Joey Logano's win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the AAA 400 this week, there was a lot of talk about the drivers on the bubble. Those were the four drivers separated by so few points that any one of them could seal his fate based on his finish on Sunday. Well, that popping noise emanating from the garage area at Dover International Speedway was the bubble bursting for AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola as the four were eliminated from Chase contention following Sunday's AAA 400.

Every driver worked hard for the initial 26 races of the season to earn a spot in the Chase and the opportunity to drive for a championship, but because of a rule change made prior to the start of the season, drivers knew they'd have to drive even harder to make it out of the Challenger Round and into the Contender Round of the 2014 Chase.

With a hug for team owner, Rick Hendrick, race winner, Jeff Gordon, thanked his crew chief and his team for giving him "such an awesome race car… I'm having so much fun. All we did was focus on executing as a team and trying to win the race. It wasn't about the points… or squeezing by to get through to the next round. It was about making a statement, and I don't know how you make a bigger statement than what this team did."

Hendrick said he felt like his senior driver had found the fountain of youth as Gordon earned his 92nd career win.

credit: Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
Kevin Harvick, who finished P13, was the class of the field… until he wasn't.

Having started from the pole, Harvick led a race-high 223 laps until a left-front tire issue on Lap 252 knocked him from the lead. When asked what happened to the tire during a post-race interview, Harvick said, "[We] knocked the inner valve stem out of the left front. A lug nut got in between the wheel and the brake rotor… it's crazy… we're handing out early Christmas presents to people for winning races that we should be winning."

"We can beat every car on the racetrack; we just need some luck. With a little luck, we'll win races and have a shot at the championship."                                                        

The rules are simple; win, and you advance to the next round. Only Keselowski, Logano and Gordon took checkers in the Challenger Round, but the four drivers eliminated on Sunday will have to wait until next year to make another bid for the championship. Each of them, however, can still race for a chance to finish the season inside the Top 10. Any one of them could finish as high as fifth. They simply aren't in the running for the top spot as the field heads to Kansas Speedway for the fourth race in the Chase, where the Contender Round will begin.

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