Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon reckons that the current competitive balance in racing may place a higher premium on winning in the three races remaining before the onset of the 10-race Chase for the Championship than will be the case in the playoff series itself. Gordon currently ranks second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 293 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.
"I've always said that there's no doubt that you can win it [the Chase] without winning races," said Gordon ahead of this weekend's Cup round at Bristol Motor Speedway. "The problem that I see right now is when they start the Chase, guys who haven't won a race are going to be at least 50 points down to start the Chase. And you're talking about the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) to the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin), the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick) has 3 or 30; those are hard numbers to overcome.
"Consistency is still key, but I'm almost wondering right now if it's more important to win during the regular season than it is in the Chase," he added. "Get the bonus points to get yourself seeded where you really need to, to get that advantage going into the Chase, and then knock out your top fives throughout the Chase and win it that way.
"But, you've still got to win. I think the guy who wins the championship is going to have at least one win this season – and more than likely in the Chase."
If it did come down to consistency, though, Gordon said that a championship won in the Chase without a win wouldn't mean any less to him.
"No, I'll be fine winning the championship without winning a single race. I'll take pride in it, absolutely," he said. "You win it however you win it, you know? The best team is going to win the championship, however that is.
"I've been a part of the sport long enough to know that under the old points system you couldn't have failures. But you could win a championship because of somebody else's failures – engine failures or tire problems. And so do you want to win a championship that way? Not necessarily, but you'll take it. Do I want to win the championship without having a win? No. But I'll still take it and take it proudly."