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.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.