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Gordon Looking Straight Ahead In Loudon

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 22 2012

Jeff Gordon needs to overcome a tough start to his bid for No. 5. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

LOUDON, N.H. – Jeff Gordon knows he can’t afford to worry about what the other 11 drivers in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship are doing.

A week after a crash relegated him to a 35th-place finish in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, four-time champion Gordon is determined to keep his focus on the future and not the past.

“My confidence wasn’t the issue, nor the team’s,’’ Gordon said after winning the pole for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “We were running fourth when we wrecked last week. Your confidence gets broken when you are running 25th.

“That is the thing that has really gotten us through this season, is that we’ve had a lot of problems that have been frustrating, and we’ve had to battle through them. But our cars have been really, really fast. So, that keeps your confidence as a driver in knowing that you can rebound, that you can get to the next track and, if you don’t have these problems, you are going to have a solid finish or a chance to win.’’

It’s hard to keep thinking in those terms when you suddenly look up and find yourself 47 points out of the lead after only one of 10 Chase races.

But there was no panic in Gordon or his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team after the disappointment last week. After all, this is the same driver and team who had to go to the last race of the regular season and the last lap of that race to qualify for the Chase.

“On Tuesday, I did my normal debrief with the team,’’ Gordon said. “Yes, we wanted to dissect the issues that happened at Chicago, and make sure they don’t happen again. But, it was immediately shifting over to focusing

Jeff Gordon not done yet. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

on New Hampshire, and what we have to do to come in here and win.

“I think we surprised ourselves a little bit with this pole. This is something we didn’t expect. We expected to be strong in the race here, but for qualifying, we haven’t sat on the pole at a non-restricted track in quite some times. So, this was a big one. And, certainly good timing.”

New Hampshire’s “Magic Mile’’ has been a good track for Gordon, although the last of his three wins here came in 1998. He has eight top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts here.

“I am optimistic just because this is one of those tracks on the circuit that I have a good feel for what I need,’’ Gordon explained. “Like going to Martinsville. I go to Martinsville with confidence because I feel like I really know what to tell the team I am missing, or what I need, or when it is right of dissecting it because you have to drive it.

“I drive the track a certain way that has worked for me. And, I haven’t stopped driving it that way for 15 years. It’s just that cars have gotten faster. Tires, setups, all these things. It is about driving the car the same way and giving good feedback. I’m confident that we can find it.”

Gordon said he is very aware that winning the pole has very little bearing on what happens in the race, other than the fact that it gives the pole-winning team the option of picking its pit box and gives the driver a very good chance of picking up the bonus for leading at least one lap early in the race.

“Qualifying is important, but there is no points for the pole,’’ he said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything for the race. Certainly it is a nice boost and something to build on. We come out of here, and I’m sitting here on Sunday as a winner, and those (other Chase) guys have a bad run and give us a chance, I might be saying something different.

“But, at this point, we have a lot of work to do, and it’s not going to happen all in one race. It’s going to happen over nine races,’’ Gordon added. “We’re certainly not going to quit. We’re going to go out and fight, and we’re going be aggressive. We’re going to do everything we’ve got to do to try to win races, and we’ll see where we end up.”

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 22 2012
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