Jeff Gordon said it three weeks ago – no one in the Chase wants to enter the craziness in Talladega having to win it to advance.
Gordon lived by that reasoning Saturday night, finishing second in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. A win would have guaranteed Gordon advancing to the next round of the Chase, but second should make Gordon relatively comfortable going into the final race of this three-race set.
Talladega Superspeedway is always wild, and known for “The Big One” wrecks. More than any other Sprint Cup track, it takes drivers’ fates out of their hands because of the frequency of chain-reaction crashes.
Gordon entered this race eighth among 12 drivers still in the Chase standings, knowing four drivers will be eliminated after Talladega. He finished 14th last week at Kansas, after Jamie McMurray clipped his Chevrolet early in the race.
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“Everybody was pushing hard with so much on the line,” said Gordon, who finished behind race-winner Kevin Harvick on Saturday. “Nobody wants to deal with Talladega. We’d all love to take that weekend off. We have a little bit of a cushion but not nearly enough.
“The format is creating a lot of drama, a lot of pressure. There are guys who will have to win that race or finish top-five. I like our chances. I think we have an excellent race team, so I’d like to think we’ll get through Talladega.”
While Gordon remains in the top-eight, he’s not locked into a spot in the next round quite yet.
“We’re going to have to race Talladega,” Gordon said. “I don’t like leaving things to chance at Talladega, but if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”
Gordon said he had a solid car, but kept losing track position in restarts Saturday. Finally, in the last three laps, he conceded chasing down Harvick and concentrated on holding off the rest of the field.
“I knew our car was really good right then, but I didn’t want to spin the tires,” Gordon said. “At that point I was settling for second because the car was only so good at that point.”
Just before doing his post-race news conference, Gordon watched video of Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin each trying to start altercations with Brad Keselowski. Clearly amused by all the anger in the garage, Gordon talked about the drama NASCAR has created with this new Chase format.
“There’s a lot on the line,” Gordon said. “The new format we all knew would get the emotions out of whack – who’s in, who’s out, who’s on the bubble. These clean slates each three races cause a lot of drama.”