Chase Capsules: Jeff Gordon

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24 – Jeff Gordon
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championships: 4 (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001)
Chase History: 10th Chase Appearance, Best finish of 2nd in 2007

Regular Season Recap: After re-igniting his hopes of a fifth Sprint Cup championship during last year’s Chase, Jeff Gordon has been largely superb in 2014. There have been some scattered hiccups – he was collected in a crash at Talladega, ran out of fuel in G-W-C at New Hampshire, and had a power failure at Watkins Glen. But Gordon earned wins in the very next race after all of those (Kansas, Indianapolis, Michigan in August). He’s either been first or second in the overall Sprint Cup standings since April. In short, he and the 24 camp have been a model of consistency.

Chris’ Take: Nothing’s ever certain in racing, but unless he comes horribly undone, Gordon should be involved in the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. He’s been a front-runner all year, and he’s shown that he can rattle off wins – which, in this new Chase, automatically advances drivers to the next round.

A scenario that I can see happening is that Gordon cranks out enough Top-5s and Top-10s to make the Eliminator Round, and then bags a ninth Sprint Cup win at Martinsville to put himself into the winner-take-all finale in South Florida.

I’ve also been pondering this scenario: What if Gordon does win his fifth Sprint Cup title in Homestead, and then decides to take stock of his career (and his recurring back issues)? Could he possibly decide ‘Enough’s enough’ and go out on this storybook ending?

Jerry’s Take: Given the season he’s had to date, there’s little doubt in my mind that Jeff Gordon makes the four-driver, winner-take-all race in the season finale at Homestead.

I can easily see it come down to Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick as the final four. One thing that Johnson has failed to do in all six of his championships is to win the season finale at Homestead.

A win there is likely what it’s going to take in 2014, and my pick is Gordon to win it all.

Tony’s Take: At least he won’t be the “lucky 13th” added in this year, as he was a year ago. Gordon’s had a bit of a new lease on life in 2014 with his multiple wins and outright consistency earning him one of the top seeds. This may well be his last best chance to take home the title, that elusive fifth, and he’d no doubt be a popular champion.

Jeff Gordon’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – One win, 6 Top-5s, 8 Top-10s in 13 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – Three wins, 16 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s in 39 starts
Dover (1 mile) – Four wins, 17 Top-5s, 24 Top-10s in 43 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – Three wins, 10 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 17 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – Five wins, 16 Top-5s, 23 Top-10s in 43 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – Six wins, 15 Top-5s, 19 Top-10s in 43 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – Eight wins, 27 Top-5s, 34 Top-10s in 43 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – One win, 9 Top-5s, 12 Top-10s in 27 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – Two wins, 11 Top-5s, 21 Top-10s in 31 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – One win, 7 Top-5s, 11 Top-10s in 15 starts

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”