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Gordon Needs 25th at RIR for Chase Berth

RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 8, 2006) – In the past three races, Jeff Gordon has moved from ninth to fourth in the standings and gained nearly 100 points on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points leader.

If he finishes 25th or better in the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night, the four-time Cup champion can cut a 387-point deficit to less than 50.

Following Saturday night’s 400-lap event, NASCAR will reset the points for the participants in the “Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.” With five points separating each position, the gap from first to 10th will only be 45 points entering the final 10 races.

But Gordon must first focus on making the Chase, and he did a lot to help that cause at California Speedway last weekend. While leading the event with 76 laps to go, Gordon was forced to make an unscheduled yellow-flag pit stop to tighten loose lug nuts.

He restarted 25th but recovered to finish fifth on a night that Kasey Kahne, who is 11th in the standings, scored maximum points (190) by winning the race and leading the most laps. If Kahne is able to score 190 points at Richmond and Gordon finishes 25th without leading a lap, they would be tied at the end of the event.

In the event of a tie for 10th following the 26th race, both drivers advance according to NASCAR.

“I hate that we had our problems in California, but we still managed a good finish,” said Gordon. “That finish made it a little bit easier for us in Richmond, but we still have to perform.”

However, Gordon has not fared well at Richmond recently. Although he has two wins, four poles, 10 top-fives and 16 top-10s in 27 starts at the Virginia track, his last three finishes have been 30th or worse.

“I compare our Richmond struggles to what we experienced at the intermediate tracks last year,” said Gordon. “To me, Richmond is an ‘intermediate short track.’

“We struggled at the mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks last year, but we turned that program around. We’ve had our troubles here recently, too, but I’m confident in the way the cars are driving and the way this DuPont team is performing. We are looking at this race as an opportunity to secure a spot in the Chase.

“We also see this as an opportunity to improve at a track where we haven’t had much success recently.”

While the top 10 are guaranteed berths in the Chase, any driver within 400 points of the lead also secures a spot. Gordon is within that window, and can also secure a Chase berth by finishing ahead of Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.

“Our plan this weekend is to focus on our program and get the best possible finish,” Gordon said. “I’m sure (crew chief) Steve Letarte will keep on eye on how the other drivers are faring, and will give me updates if he thinks it’s necessary.

“Hopefully, we’re running up front and don’t have to worry about them.”