Gordon: Chase addition has “lit a fire under us”

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Like it or not, Jeff Gordon is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup – and while he and his team had been inconsistent through the regular season, he believes that everyone’s ready to show that they truly deserved their post-season berth.

“I always like to say that you’ve got to walk before you can run, but I will say this has lit a fire under us,” Gordon said Friday about his chances of claiming a fifth Sprint Cup title.

“…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.”

NASCAR added Gordon to the Chase as a 13th driver following the events of last Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. He was one of the competitors most impacted by a spin from Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go in that event, and when the checkered flag flew following a restart with three laps left, he found himself out of the Chase by a single point.

But that was then. Now, Gordon is looking forward to the post-season stretch on a set of tracks that have treated him and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team well in the past.

“We have ten, or at least eight, I’d say, good racetracks that are in the Chase that I really like, that we run well at, and it starts right here in Chicago,” he said. “This is a good track for us. We qualified well. New Hampshire is a great track for us. Martinsville is a great track for us. Obviously, Homestead is a great track. We ran great in Charlotte.

“I mean, I would say Kansas and Phoenix are the two that are probably on our radar that we need to do better at. Texas is another good track for us. So, I’m excited.”

Gordon won at Chicagoland back in 2006 and has collected seven Top-10 finishes in 12 career Cup starts there. He’ll start sixth in tomorrow’s Chase opener, the GEICO 400.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”