Jeff Gordon halted a 31-race winless streak by winning the rain shortened Pocono race last week for his 86th career victory.
The win pushed Gordon into a tie for the 12th and final Chase position with five races to go by virtue of having the most points among drivers with one victory. If the Chase were to begin today, Gordon would advance over Newman due to having one more top-5 finish.
Despite Gordon’s 2012 bad luck giving the impression he would have no shot at making the Chase just a few weeks ago, the crew over at the LVH Super Book have stayed steady with him on his Championship odds at 15-to-1. Gordon’s car has never been in doubt all season, which is why despite not winning the last 31 races, he was still respected enough to never have opening odds offered higher than 12-1 during any event.
To give an example of how respectfully low that number was before Gordon finally won, consider that Newman was 100-1 to capture the title.
The two other drivers still hoping for a shot at the Chase that have a win on the season are Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Each are falling fast of late, but could pass both Newman and Gordon with a win within these next five races.
The five tracks all these hungry drivers will battle and have their fate ultimately decided begin at the road course of Watkins Glen this week. They’ll then visit the 2-mile oval at Michigan, the half-mile short track at Bristol, the 1.5-mile high banked track at Atlanta and the three-quarter-mile flat track of Richmond.
That is about as diverse as a schedule can get over five race stretch and will take a driver just as diverse to get the job done. Between having the Hendrick Motorsports advantage and also having a varied background on all tracks, Gordon is right back in the mix of things.
We could possibly see all four Hendrick cars in the 12-car Chase for the Championship, something we all thought – except for the LVH – was virtually impossible.
Gordon can quickly take care of business this week by winning at Watkins Glen, a track he’s won at four times but none since 2001. Gordon also has five wins on the road course of Sonoma, but none there since 2006. He’s still been competitive on the road courses, finishing sixth at Sonoma in late June, but the competition is much better than it used to be in the past.
Taking over the road course crown was Tony Stewart, who has five Watkins Glen victories since Gordon won his last. Juan Pablo Montoya has captured a couple road events and Marcos Ambrose won at the Glen last year. For Ambrose, he has an impossible, but true, average finish of 2.3 in four starts.
Even though the drivers make both right and left turns at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, the two tracks are about as different as New Hampshire and Homestead are compared to each other. Sonoma is the technical course with elevation changes where the driver is the key component. A Sonoma lap is about 30 mph slower than Watkins Glen, a track that allows for the car to be more relative.
Look for the regulars to be hunting for another win with the Michael Waltrip drivers having a shot as well. Clint Bowyer won at Sonoma in June and Martin Truex Jr has always fared well at Watkins Glen.