Confidence grows for re-energized Jeff Gordon, No. 24 team

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Jeff Gordon wanted to prove that he and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports squad were worthy of the 13th Chase for the Sprint Cup spot bestowed upon them by NASCAR after the race manipulation scandal last month at Richmond International Raceway.

So far, they’re doing just that. The four-time Sprint Cup champion and his group have turned in two Top-5s and three Top-10s in the first four Chase races and their lowest post-season finish so far has been a 15th-place showing at New Hampshire.

Inconsistency had plagued the 24 camp during the regular season, but there’s no doubt they’re riding a wave right now – and it’s showing in Gordon’s attitude, which has changed considerably as the summer has given way to fall.

“The reason that I’m like this now is because we never gave up,” Gordon said Thursday after claiming pole position for tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “That is why I give this team a lot of credit they really stepped up. Our set-ups are just suiting my driving style and the things that I like to feel in the car.

“The cars are just giving me good feedback and it’s because they work so hard through the summer to make improvements. Watching what other teams are doing, learning from our teammates as well as just applying ourselves in the things that we are doing. Each week now, I’m just building that confidence because those cars are giving me that confidence.”

Gordon hasn’t been strong lately at Charlotte. He hasn’t won on the 1.5-mile oval since 2007, and has only garnered one Top-10 finish in his last six starts there.

But given his recent burst of momentum, he seems set to continue serving as a key player in the 2013 championship tonight – especially considering his start up front, which should help him in the all-important fight for track position.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.