RICHMOND, Va. — Jeff Gordon's public-relations man, Jon Edwards, recently began going over the convoluted scenarios it would take for Gordon to qualify for the 2013 Chase for the Championship.
The math got fuzzy. In a hurry.
"It definitely put a smile on our face when we were starting to go through some of the scenarios," Gordon said Thursday night, laughing at the absurdity. "I think I stopped him about halfway through and said, 'Stop, I really don't want to know any more. It gets too confusing. It's going to change when the green flag drops anyway.' ''
- E-mail | Recent columns
- Tony Stewart on mend, plans to be ready to race at Daytona in 2014
- Kyle Busch rides steady into Richmond after last year's epic fail
- Kurt Busch's star-power trumps Ryan Newman's steady NASCAR résumé
- Pictures: Fans at the 2013 Daytona 500
- Pictures: 2013 Daytona 500
- Pictures: 2012 Daytona 500
See more photos »
- Jimmie Johnson at Homestead
Here's what essentially needs to happen for Gordon to make the Chase: Win Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway.
Gordon, 11th in the points standings, would secure at least a wild-card spot with a victory.
Anything else gets back to the fuzzy math involving Gordon and others such as Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman — the Bubble Boys who need to finish at the front of the pack to make the 12-driver Chase field.
Gordon, without a victory in 2013, is in a particularly vulnerable position. It's been a spotty season for the four-time Cup Series champion, an up-and-down ride of inconsistency. He's certainly not in the conversation when talking about elite Cup drivers.
At 42, Gordon simply isn't one of them anymore. It's not a harsh assessment, just the tough reality:
Gordon has not won a title since 2001.He has taken a dip in championship relevance in recent years, too, finishing 9th, 8th and 10th the last three seasons. He has just five victories since 2009.
"Gordon is going through a tough time in his career personally," said Darrell Waltrip, a NASCAR on FOX analyst. "I think he doubts himself, and while that won't necessarily make a driver run badly, it affects the race team. They feel it, see it and hear it. Brad [Keselowski] and Jeff have imploded more than anything else."
Here's what may surprise you: Gordon agrees.
"That's no revelation," he said. "I don't see anything unique about that.
"I think this year I've admitted there's been times when I've lacked in confidence when qualifying poorly. I've lacked in confidence many times throughout my career, but that's because the car speaks to you. If you go through, let's say, three weeks in a row where the car is not speaking to you, you're not getting the speed out of it, things aren't going well and I question everything.
"The one thing I also agree with is that when that green flag drops, if that car sticks in turns, then there's nobody that's going to have more confidence than me."
Gordon has another thing working for him: history and karma. He played the Comeback Kid role to perfection here a year ago when, thanks to savvy pit strategy and a 51-minute rain delay that put everybody out of pit sequence, Gordon rallied from 25th to finish second and steal a Chase berth from Kyle Busch.
Different Busch, same scenario.
Could this be the last gasp at relevance for Gordon? What's the frustration level of trying to keep up with his Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne? Johnson and Kahne have qualified for the Chase already and Earnhardt, seventh in points, looks like a good bet, too.
Is Gordon still a good bet?
Get those calculators out; the math could get fuzzy.
"So many scenarios that could play out," Busch said.
Here's one that is not at all complicated:
A victory at Richmond would do a lot for Gordon's confidence. It also would mean a great deal to him in terms of Chase relevance.
Win and you're in, simple as that.