Jeff Gordon: 2014 is best shot at Sprint Cup crown since his last in 2001

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JOLIET, Ill. – Ask Jeff Gordon a point-blank question and he’ll give you a point-blank response in return.

When asked the last time he felt as optimistic about his championship chances as he has heading into this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Gordon didn’t hesitate.

“2001,” Gordon said emphatically.

Not surprisingly, 2001 was also the season of Gordon’s fourth and most recent Cup championship.

Since then, Gordon’s “Drive For Five” has gone on for 13 unlucky seasons where he’s fallen short of his goal.

That’s all different in 2014, though.

“I mean, 2004 and 2007 we were pretty good,” Gordon said. “I’ve had years where I’ve felt we’ve had a chance to win, but it’s been a long time since I’ve felt like we were the team to win.”

Gordon has numerous motivating factors channeling his quest for the championship.

Said Gordon, “Not winning a Sprint Cup championship under the new format, not winning a championship since 2001, making the switch over to the new team with Alan (crew chief Alan Gustafson) and the group that he’s put together and wanting to see them win races like the Brickyard 400 and be champions. They’ve been close before with Mark Martin, but there’s things we’re doing together that they’ve never done before.

“And then, the icing on the cake is having my family there. That Brickyard 400 win (in July) will go down as a highlight for me forever. Winning such a big race, getting to kiss the bricks, having them there and to experience what it was like as a family with Ingrid and the kids, it was amazing. The only thing that can top that is doing that as a champion.”

Which leads to the inevitable question posed to him by MotorSportsTalk: If he wins the championship this season, will Gordon go out on top and retire?

“Ha-ha,” Gordon laughed. “I don’t know about that, not unless I pull my back out break dancing on stage for the championship. Nobody would want to break-dance more than me if we won this thing.”

Prior to the season, there were reports that Gordon would retire if he wins the 2014 crown. He said his answer was misunderstood and he clarified the misconception with MST.

“That came from somebody asking me if I won the championship, would I consider retiring?” he said. “Heck yeah, I’d consider it. I’m having too much fun right now, though. My focus is on the championship and winning it.

“When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. But I hope that moment, when it’s time, that it hits me like a break wall and tells me. But I don’t feel like that’s going to be at the end of this season.”

Gordon acknowledges that numerous fans and media have made him a sentimental favorite to win the championship this season.

“Sentimental doesn’t mean anything to me when I’m driving the car,” he said. “It’s great to hear that when you get outside the car, the reaction, the support. That’s wonderful. But for me, it’s just all about what I do behind the wheel, do my job and do it well and have a piece of equipment that I’ve had this year that reacts to the input that I give it and a team that believes in me.”

As for how he handicaps his team’s chances in the Chase, which begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, Gordon said the expanded format – along with the three elimination rounds – actually plays in his favor.

“The third round, you’re going to have to be near-perfect,” he said. “You definitely don’t have to have 10 perfect weeks, not at all. I think the third round and Homestead, you’re going to have to be at your absolute best. The other one’s, you can slip a little hear and there if you’re strong enough to claw yourself back to a decent finish.

“It’s a different championship than what we’ve seen in previous years because of these elimination rounds. … That’s why I like this version (it helps him recover from struggles like he’s had in past Chase’s).

“Chicago’s a great track, Kansas is a great track for us, Martinsville is a great track for us. Those are the first three races of each of those three rounds. I want to win those races and then go to Homestead and try to win the championship.

“We have a lot of tracks that we can be extremely dangerous at, that we can not only win, but also have the consistency to be a strong team to get to Homestead as well. As a team, we have more than one way to get there.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage