E.A. Sports Today

One more time

Gordon thinking more about the Chase than history as he prepares to take his final ride around Talladega

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – If Jeff Gordon has some kind of gesture planned for his way out of Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, he’s not letting on.

The only way you’ll know is if somebody tells you because chances are if there is something, most of us probably won’t be around to see it.

Gordon takes his last ride around Talladega Sunday in the Camping World 500. It’s been a track that has been both good and bad for him over the years even if he doesn’t like it – at least the type of racing that’s done there – very much.

But none of that will be on his mind when he takes the green flag – maybe even the checkered – Sunday afternoon.

“We’re here to race, we’re here to race for a win,” Gordon said Friday. “When it’s over I’ll give you my thoughts. Right now I want my mindset to be excited and positive and about coming here to win this race, hopefully battle for a win and come out of here with the car in one piece and move on to the next round of the Chase. That’s all I want to talk about right now.”

Gordon comes into Sunday’s race tied for fifth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings with Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. He’s only seven points ahead of the split that will send the top eight into the next round at the end of the day, so he knows he has to race smart and avoid The Big One at all costs.

If he can get through Sunday he’s confident with the schedule that remains he can make a serious run at the championship.

But getting through Talladega is the question. He has six Sprint Cup wins here – the same number as Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won the spring race – but his last three starts have been noteworthy only because of their bad finish.

And let’s face it, he isn’t shy about his dislike for restrictor plate racing.

Gordon had a dozen top-five finishes during the stretch from his first Talladega victory (1996) to his last (2007), but he’s has had only three top 10s since and his last three starts have all ended outside the top 25.

“This place has been really good to me and also really bad,” he said. “I’m just trying to come into it with a positive attitude and be excited about how fast our race car is, how good our race team is, (and) the opportunity we have in front of us. I’m not thinking of it from a historic standpoint or even really letting it sink in that this is my final race here.

“We’ve got too much of a job at hand to focus on the Chase. I truly believe we make it through this round we’ve got great tracks coming up that we can definitely move on all the way to Homestead and do something we didn’t do last year and possibly do something I’ve never done in my career, which is win a Sprint Cup championship.

“I know we’re not running the way some others are, but I’m telling you we get through this one there are four tracks that we can surprise some people — and that’s all that’s on my mind.”

Until the end of the day when everyone’s gone, and then he can salute the track in the manner a certain segment of fans has saluted him during his many laps around the place.

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