Jeff Gordon set to turn ‘Drive for Five’ into high gear in Chase

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Given where he’s at right now, retirement appears to be the furthest thing from Jeff Gordon’s mindset.

Having finished second in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, and entering the upcoming Chase as the No. 2 seed, Gordon is unquestionably bound and determined to fulfill his season-long goal of a fifth career Sprint Cup championship.

He’s been chasing his “Drive For Five” since his fourth Cup crown in 2001, but this year could very well be the time Gordon finally realizes that goal.

“I’m very confident because we have such a great race team,” Gordon told ESPN after the race. “I’m so proud of Alan (crew chief Alan Gustafson), all of our engineers and everyone on this No. 24 team.”

Not only has Gordon led the Sprint Cup standings for 15 of the first 26 races this season, he also earned his 17th top-10 finish in the same 26 races. That equalizes the total number of top-10 finishes he had all of last season.

“Our fans, the way they’ve embraced this season, has been extremely motivating,” Gordon said. “I know how proud they are and we know how proud we are of the effort and the results that we’re getting this year. Ten more weeks that we have to get it done, and this team’s ready to do that.”

Had there been maybe another five more laps, Gordon may very well have caught eventual race winner and Chase No. 1 seed Brad Keselowski.

“I didn’t feel like we had a car that could compete with Brad at some points of the night, but we never gave up,” Gordon said. “Great pit stops and adjustments at the end and we were closing on him (Keselowski).

“It wasn’t a win, but still great momentum to carry into the Chase. This team’s on fire and we can’t wait to get it started.”

Gordon, who turned 43 last month, praised Gustafson for being one of the major reasons why the team has performed so well this season.

“We clicked, I’ve felt, right from the beginning, but I don’t know if we’ve ever really had the chemistry or been in sync like we are right now,” Gordon said of Gustafson. “I believe in him 100 percent and he believes in me 100 percent, and that’s trickled down to the rest of the team.

“This is the team I want to go to battle with for the next 10 weeks. … It’s a team that really believes in one another. You can’t ask for more than that. Well, fast race cars, but we have that, too.”

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