NASCAR: Wins take on added importance
By Mike Harris
A year ago, Jeff Gordon “won” the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season, finishing the first 26 races an eye-popping 312 points ahead of runner-up Tony Stewart.
Gordon’s reward for his fast start? He saw his big margin disappear and found himself second at the start of the 10-race Chase for the championship, 20 points behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.
For the stock car postseason, the 12 eligible drivers are each boosted to 5,000 points, then seeded by victories, with 10 points for each win. In 2007, all the Chase drivers except Clint Bowyer had at least one win.
Johnson, who went on to win the title for the second straight year, got the points lead for his six victories to Gordon’s four entering the Chase.
If Kyle Busch, who leads the standings by 103 points over Jeff Burton heading to New Hampshire this week, stays out front, he’s not likely to meet Gordon’s fate. The new Joe Gibbs Racing driver already has five victories and only fourth-place Carl Edwards, with three, is close.
At the moment, the only other multiple race winner is ninth-place Kasey Kahne with two. Among the top 12, Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Bowyer each have one win, while Gordon, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth have none.
“It would be nice to have some wins in our pocket at this point, but the main thing is to be in the Chase,” said sixth-place Gordon.
And that is definitely the first order of business.
With 10 weeks of regular-season racing left, there are still plenty of question marks. Just 79 points separate Bowyer in 10th place and rookie David Ragan in 14th.
“I’m not super comfortable with where we are at in the points,” said Kahne, just 34 points in front of Bowyer. “We definitely need to keep staying after it and keep gaining points and doing everything we can to stay in the top 12.
“We definitely have a lot of work to get in (the Chase) and there are a lot of good cars still on the outside and right behind us. (But) there are a lot of good tracks coming up for us. We’ve been fast at a lot of the upcoming tracks.”
Even Burton, who has been at or near the front of the points from the start of the season, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Obviously, as the races get closer to two or three to go before the last 10, we’ve got a tremendous amount of emphasis put on it,” the four-time New Hampshire winner said. “However, we can’t forget that they pay the same amount of points for the third race of the year as they do for the 25th race of the year.
“So all the work that we’ve done up to this point is what matters, and every race by itself matters a great deal. The emphasis will be put on these closing races. At the end of the day, it’s an accumulation of all the points you gained in the first 26, so it really doesn’t make that race any more important than any other.”
Bobby Jackson’s mind is obviously on his current summer league going on in Salisbury, but he’ll take a break tonight... read more