Jeff Gordon hopes to rebound from a poor Chase start at Chicagoland but admits he will need almost a miracle to get back in NASCAR Sprint Cup championship contention.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver landed the final Chase wild card seeding at Richmond on a run of momentum, having finished third or second in the previous three races. However, a stuck throttle and a subsequent crash last weekend at Chicagoland meant he was classified 35th. That result has kept him down at the bottom of the Chase standings, already 47 points off the lead – a full race win behind – with only nine races left.
Although Gordon is not giving up on his hopes of a fifth championship, he admits he will need some help from rivals in order to get back in contention. Three times a winner at New Hampshire, Gordon starts Sunday's race at the track from pole position.
"We have to score a lot more points than the other guys," said Gordon. "How do you know what that is? The problem is that you have 11 guys that you have to do that with. We're at the pretty good chunk just back to 11th.
"It's going to have to be pretty extraordinary. Right next to miraculous. Miraculous things have happened so that's what keeps us motivated and keeps us going forward is that anything can happen and crazier things have happened before."
Gordon's teammate Jimmie Johnson rebounded from a 39th place finish in the first Chase event of 2006 to claim his maiden Cup title nine weeks later. However, he underlined that mistakes from rivals allowed him to get back in position to fight for that championship.
"It is possible, but you really put the control in the other 11 Chasers' hands and they have to have a problem too," said Johnson. "We look at what I did in 2006, I think we had two DNFs, maybe three bad races, but definitely two DNFs.
"Others made mistakes that let us back into it. If it's that type of year, sure [it can be done], but at this point everybody is really afraid of a poor finish. You just don't know until you get to race six or seven kind of what the deal is. You don't want to be behind chasing at that point."
Gordon is one of four Hendrick Motorsports drivers currently in Chase contention.