FORT WAYNE – Home-court advantage.
Now theres the sweetest two words ever hammered together, if youre Jeff Gordon.
The once-upon-a-time king of NASCAR likely never saw the day when hed see Indianapolis – home-court in more ways than one for a guy who grew up, or at least came of a age, a handful of miles west in Pittsboro – as even more of a haven than he usually regards it. But stuff happens – and lord knows, if it could happen to him this season, it has.
Four times a NASCAR champion, four times a Brickyard 400 winner, he comes to Indy in a most unaccustomed place: Off the radar. Right now he stands 17th in points, 183 behind leader Matt Kenseth and 43 away from the last spot in the Chase. And hes not even in the wild-card picture, having not won a race this season.
And so, Indy, where hes finished 14 times in the top 10 and in the top five a dozen times. Its a sight for sore eyes, to be sure.
Obviously our season hasnt gone the way that we had hoped it would, he said a couple of weeks ago. But weve got a bunch of tracks coming up that were definitely capable of winning at. And we know that were going to have to win at those in order to get ourselves in the championship Chase.
Thats the bad news, or at least a piece of it. The good news is, after just three top 10s in the first 14 races this season, Gordon comes to Indy on a semi-roll, with four finishes of sixth or better in the last five races.
I feel like weve turned a corner, he says. I feel like the last few weeks weve been putting some good results together and getting to the finish with the car in one piece and having good runs.
There are definitely moments when you sense the frustration and it comes out in things you say on the radio or how you handle some of those situations behind closed doors. I would say that there has been very little questioning of anyone. Its really been just how do we turn these great runs into great results.
Coming to Indianapolis, where Gordon finished second to Paul Menard last year and where his mojo has always been at its zenith, surely helps in that process.
I think back to last year at Indianapolis and how good we were, he said. Thats what memory Im going to have going in there this year, is how can we be that good and improve on our performance versus our competition.
Like I said, I feel like weve turned a corner, because I certainly hope that the worst is behind us. I just feel like the last few weeks with things going more our way at the end of these races, thats helped us to understand that hey, weve just got to keep sticking together and were going to get the results. Now, are they going to be enough to get us in the Chase?