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.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/