Can Jeff Gordon make No. 13 lucky to claim 5th Cup title ?

jutter@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

— Could a first time for NASCAR be a fifth time for Jeff Gordon?

NASCAR’s unprecedented move last week to add a 13th member to the Chase for the Sprint Cup field was done to help remove some of the cloud of controversy from the Richmond, Va., race Sept.7.

Its immediate impact was to add Gordon to the drivers eligible to win this season’s championship.

Gordon, a four-time series champion who won all of his titles during the pre-Chase era, hoped to take full advantage and made a strong accounting Sunday during the opening Chase race at Chicagoland.

With Gordon’s sixth-place finish and nine races remaining, he remains clearly in the title hunt. He is seventh in points, 24 behind leader Matt Kenseth.

“That’s what needed to get this thing started off right. And I’m proud of this team,” Gordon said immediately after Sunday night’s race. “I can’t wait to get to this next race. What is it? Loudon? We’re ready!”

Gordon talked earlier at Chicagoland about his reaction to NASCAR’s decision, the team orders scandal’s possible long-term affect and his prospects for a championship.

Q: Now that you’re in the Chase and playing with house money, so to speak, can you write the rest of the script and win the thing?

A: I will say this has lit a fire under us. I mean, just to go through what we went through (at Richmond) and I look at last year, too. We went through that wild and crazy race and made it in the Chase under those circumstances. We came here ready to go.

I’m excited. I know we haven’t shown it yet this year, but this team is ready to show it now. So I think that’s the one thing is when you get yourself in this position, you want to show the world and our racing community, the ones that support us and the ones that didn’t, that we belong here and there is a reason why we’re in this thing.

Q: Your thoughts on NASCAR’s decision to allow you in the Chase?

A: I’ll admit, it was a rough week. It was a lot of up‑and‑downs of emotions for this entire team. They’ve been through a lot. They never gave up. Not only (at Richmond) but the entire week, and I’m proud of that. I’m very appreciative, very thankful to be in, and I know it’s under the most unbelievable circumstances I’ve ever been a part of in my racing career, and I wish that all of this hadn’t happened. I wish that we could have just raced for it on Saturday night, but that wasn’t the case. Now here we are as a 13th car and in. Now we just try to take that opportunity and make the most of it.

Q: How difficult will it be to restore some of the integrity or the lost confidence among fans and participants in the sport after what transpired at Richmond?

A: None of us want to go out there and give up a spot or race somebody different because our teammate is running for a championship. We want to go out there racing for every position, every lap, as hard as we can. When you know what all is on the line, as a driver, as a crew chief, you know there are extreme circumstances where we’re in that position to be able to help. That, to me, doesn’t necessarily make it right, and there are boundaries still even with those moves. The boundaries have been continuing to be pushed further and further and lines are being crossed. I’m more looking forward to the future than looking and bringing back things in the past.

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