|Jeff Gordon's last Bristol win came in 2002 (Getty)|
If five-time Bristol Motor Speedway winner Gordon takes the checkered flag in Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race, he will clinch a spot in the 2011 “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.” Along with earning one of those 12 coveted spots in the 10-race playoff, Gordon would also secure the final spot in the Sprint Summer Showdown –joining Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch as those racing for the bonus in Atlanta on September 4.
“We have one more chance to earn a spot in the Showdown, and I really want to be the driver that wins a fan one million dollars in Atlanta,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. “I think this such a cool program by Sprint that is a great chance for a fan — and a charity — to win a million dollars.
“The Bristol night race is just a completely different atmosphere. The intensity level may be even higher with the final Showdown spot on the line.”
Also on the line for the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is a berth in the Chase. If Gordon wins Saturday night, he would secure at least a “wild card” spot –entries into the playoff for the two drivers with the most wins that are outside the top 10after race No. 26 at Richmond. He can also secure his spot in the Chase if he holds at least a 97-point advantage over 11th-place in the standings following Bristol. That gap currently sits at 69.
“Even though we have a little bit of a cushion, the focus hasn’t changed,” said Gordon, who has earned the most points in the last 10 races – moving from 13th up to sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings while cutting the deficit to the leader from 121 to 60 during that span. “ The goal is to win each and every week. With the cushion, how we go about it has changed.
“With that cushion, we can take more risks with fuel or pit strategy the next few races to try to get another win.”
Along with his five wins at the 0.533-mile high banked short track, Gordon has earned five poles, 14 top-fives and 20 top-10’s. Much of that success occurred before a track reconfiguration in 2007.
“There was a groove – a rhythm – that I found on the old layout,” said Gordon. “I just haven’t found it yet in the new layout.”
If found this weekend, it could be worth a million dollars.