NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Jeff Gordon says he is already thinking about building momentum for this year's playoff even at this early stage of the 2009 season.
Gordon ended a 47-race winless streak two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway, scoring his 82nd career victory. The four-time champion is currently at the top of the standings and aiming for his first title under the Chase format, which he admits he has yet to master.
The 37-year-old believes it was very important for him and his team to win again and even more so to do it at a track where they have never won before, and one that is among the last 10 where the championship is decided.
"To me, everything has changed since the Chase format has come along," said Gordon. "I love it, but how you go about streaks and momentum and consistency is all so much different in how I approach it and look at it. And this team, the same way.
"It's important to win races, I think, to show yourself and everybody that you're capable of winning races. I think right now, that was huge for us. And then you add in the fact that we won at a track where we had never won before, that was huge, too.
"But what you're really trying to do is build momentum up to those final 10 races - getting yourself into that top 12 with a team and a car that not only you know but your competition is looking at us as the one to beat.
"And then over those final 10 races, you've got to nail it at those tracks. And I think that's also what was so significant about winning at Texas. That's one of the tracks that's in the Chase."
Gordon says every aspect of his team seems to be working better this year and that its first win of the season is proof of that.
"The way the cars are driving this season is so much better; the pit stops are great; the communication... everything is just working really, really well right now," Gordon added. "I think the win at Texas proved just how good everything is working for us right now."
The Hendrick driver will start Saturday's race from the outside of the second row of the starting grid.