Bill Fleischman: Gordon sets out to make the Chase this weekend

Posted: September 06, 2012

JEFF GORDON'S No. 24 Chevrolet will seem like a car carrying a stash of live grenades Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Hardly anyone will want to collide with the well-respected Gordon and spoil his chances of qualifying as a Chaser. Gordon is one of several racers seeking the second Chase wild card.

Entering the final event before the Chase, the current wild-card drivers are Kasey Kahne (11th in points, two wins) and Kyle Busch (12th, one win). Gordon (one W) is 13th in the standings, 35 behind 10th place. Two wild-card racers fill out the 12-drive Chase field.

If Gordon wins the race, he's likely in the Chase. The four-time Cup champion promises to be aggressive at Richmond after he avoided contact with race winner Denny Hamlin on the final lap at Atlanta on Sunday night.

"I should have just run into the back of [Hamlin] into [Turn] 3 and moved him up the racetrack," Gordon said. "We would have been in victory lane. This Chase is too important for me to be in. I wouldn't have wanted to wreck him, but I would have liked to have that one over again."

Gordon is a two-time winner at Richmond, but his last W there was 12 years ago. He finished 23rd in the spring race at RIR.

If Tony Stewart, now 10th and 18 points ahead of Kahne, falters at Richmond, there are so many scenarios, you get a headache reading them. Even if Stewart drops out of the top 10, his three wins put him in the Chase.

One scenario in which Gordon wins at RIR but doesn't make the Chase is if Kyle Busch climbs into the top 10 and Gordon, even with his win, doesn't move ahead of Kahne in points.

See what we mean about headaches?

Drivers on the move

Next year's Cup series scene shifted Tuesday with the news that Matt Kenseth will join Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth will replace Joey Logano, who will leave Gibbs to drive the No. 22 car for Penske Racing, switching next season from Dodge to Ford.

After 13 full seasons with Roush Fenway, Kenseth leaves the impression he'll have a better chance to win Cup titles with Gibbs. "It's about winning races and championships, and you want to put yourself in a position to be competitive going forward," Kenseth said.

Kenseth, 40, opened the season with his second Daytona 500 victory. While he hasn't won since, the 2003 Cup champion is a solid third in points.

Next year, Gibbs will field a formidable stable, with Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

In four seasons with Gibbs, Logano won two races, but didn't run up front enough. At 22, he's still young enough to prove he's a winning Cup driver. Gibbs hoped to retain Logano and have him race full time next year in the Nationwide Series, with selected Cup races.

Logano will be a Penske teammate of Brad Keselowski, a three-time winner this year. There's speculation that Penske Racing will field a third Cup team next year, possibly for Sam Hornish Jr., who has filled in capably for A.J. Allmendinger, who has been suspended for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy.

Indy cars at Pocono?

Pocono Raceway CEO and president Brandon Igdalsky confirms that discussions have been held about bringing Indy-style cars back to the mountaintop tri-oval, likely in July between the track's NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

"It is a fact that we are talking, but that is it at this point," Igdalsky wrote in an e-mail.

The last time Indy cars raced at Pocono was 1989 when Danny Sullivan won. Before any agreement is reached, surely the open-wheel cars will test on the repaved 2.5-mile track.

Sports car merger

Grand-Am Road Racing and the American LeMans Series are merging. Wednesday's announcement said they'll run separate series next year and merge in 2014.

"[The merger] will transform sports-car racing on this continent, along with having worldwide industry implications," Grand-Am president/CEO Ed Bennett said. "This is a bold move for the long-term, optimum growth of sports-car racing."

Grand-Am founder Jim France will be chairman of the merged organization. ALMS founder Don Panoz will be vice chairman. Grand-Am has raced at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville.

THIS WEEK'S RACE Federated Auto Parts 400 Richmond International Raceway Richmond, Va. When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. TV/Radio: Channel 6/None Race course: .75-mile oval Race distance: 400 laps/300 miles Race forecast: showers likely, low 70s Last year's winner: Kevin Harvick Last year's pole: David Reutimann, 127.383 mph Track qualifying record: Brian Vickers, 129.983 mph (May 2004) Track facts: Kevin Harvick led the most laps (202), including the last 16, to win last year's race. Carl Edwards was second, Jeff Gordon third . . . Kyle Busch's victory in RIR's spring race was his fourth at the track, making him the leader among active drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are three-time winners at RIR. Earnhardt was runner-up in the spring race . . . Martin Truex Jr. has led 96 laps in the last three races. He is fifth in points, but his winless streak is now 191 races . . . Brad Keselowski has four top-five finishes in his last five races. Standings 1. Greg Biffle 879 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 871 3. Matt Kenseth 858 4. Jimmie Johnson 848 5. Martin Truex Jr. 838 6. Brad Keselowski 831 7. Denny Hamlin 822 8. Clint Bowyer 811 9. Kevin Harvick 807 10. Tony Stewart 769 11. Kasey Kahne 751 12. Kyle Busch 746 Wins: Denny Hamlin, 4; Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, 3 each; Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, 2 each; Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, 1 each. Up next: Geico 400, Sept. 16, Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill., 2 p.m.; TV: ESPN; last year's winner: Tony Stewart.

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