DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jeff Gordon was thrilled to get his once-scintillating restrictor-plate stats back on the right track Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400, via his first top-five finish there in three years.
“Man, I’m just happy to survive one of these restrictor plate races — it’s been a while since we’ve done that,” Gordon said with a smile. “We had a pretty good night, car drove good — especially on the long runs — and we avoided the big [wrecks] and got ourselves in a good position to win the race.”
But he didn’t win, for the 47th consecutive time in a Cup race.
Gordon’s timely third-place finish behind race winner Kevin Harvick and equally-relieved runner-up Kasey Kahne only reinforced his urgency to find his way to Victory Lane.
Gordon moved into second in the championship, which has eight events to go in the Race to the Chase, when the playoff field is set following the Richmond round in September. When he got to his post-race media briefing, he didn’t even know that — but the fact that his winless streak extended continues to bemuse Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte. And they’re focused on ending it.
“I’m excited that we’re second in points, but I’ll be honest with you, all I look at is where we are with wins right now,” Gordon said. “When you’re positioned well in the Chase, like we are currently, then it comes down to wins and being seeded for when that Chase comes around.”
Wins are worth 10 bonus points apiece for Chase “seeding,” when the 10-race championship round begins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September. Gordon’s the only man in the top six in the standings who’s winless. Hendrick teammate and four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin each have five wins — and 50 extra points when the standings are reset heading into the Chase.
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