Jeff Gordon knows he’s got six races to make a big push to qualify for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
That’s why he’s in attack mode.
He can no longer race for points. He has to be aggressive with every pass, and his race team must gamble if it puts him in position to win a race. Playing it smart and safe won’t be good enough.
“That’s the beauty of where I’m at in points,” he said. “I don’t have to dial back anything. We are in full-on aggressive mode. Do we have to win? No. But do we have to put (six) really good races together? Yes. In order to put good races together, I’m talking top-fives.”
Gordon finished seventh in Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That helped him improve two positions to 10th in the Sprint Cup Series standings – and inside the cut line for the Chase – but he knows without a victory he’s precariously close to be knocked out of playoff contention if anyone lower in the standings gets hot in the next six races.
That’s why Gordon said his team needs to go on the attack.
“We have to push and not pull back,” Gordon said.
Gordon is one point ahead of 11th-place Tony Stewart and five points ahead of Martin Truex Jr. and six points in front of Brad Keselowski.
Since each finishing position is worth a point, Gordon can finish seventh in Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway and fall all the way back to 13th in the rankings.
SPONSORS FADING: A couple of years ago sponsors called Gordon to ask him to put in a good word to have Dale Earnhardt Jr. race with their sponsorship colors on the side of his race car.
Now it appears he might finish the season without financial support for several races.
Earnhardt admitted sponsorships have been slow to putting their names on the dotted line for a handful of races he doesn’t have backing this year.
“I think that we have had a lot of good conversations with a few potential partners about what we can do in 2014 and beyond,” he said. “Anybody who has got any sense about how the corporate world works knows that it’s too late into the season, too late in the year to expect to put together a package for the rest of the season that is going to turn into a multi-year deal.
“It’s just all the dollars and cents are accounted for at this point in the year.”
Considered the most-popular driver with the deepest corporate connections, Earnhardt has struggled to find a company to fill in the gaps after Pepsi’s Diet Mountain Dew/AMP said it was reducing its sponsorship on his No. 88 Chevrolet this year.
The U.S. Army National Guard will sponsor Earnhardt’s car for 22 regular season races this year. Diet Mountain Dew/AMP is the primary sponsor for only five races.
That leaves six upcoming races – Michigan on Aug. 18, Richmond, Va., on Sept. 7, New Hampshire on Sept. 22, Kansas on Oct. 6, Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 12 and Phoenix on Nov. 10 without a sponsor.