Jeff Gordon, right, chats with Jimmie Johnson and a crew member during a… (Steve Helber / Associated…)
In his nearly 20-year career driving in NASCAR's top series, Jeff Gordon has won four championships, 86 races (third highest in the sport), $127 million in race purses and millions more in endorsements.
But as long as the 41-year-old Gordon is in a race car, all that matters is winning the next race or capturing the next title. And that was wholly evident this weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Gordon needed a strong finish in Saturday night's race to snag the 12th and final berth in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup, its 10-race championship playoff that starts next week.
The Vallejo, Calif., native started second but immediately fell back with an ill-handling car. At one point he was 23rd in the 43-car field.
During one of the rainstorms that delayed the race's finish until early the next morning, a dejected Gordon said "we missed it," meaning the car's proper setup, but added he was not about "to go down without a fight."
Sure enough, his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, ordered adjustments that made the car much better and a tenacious Gordon charged back up through the pack.
As the race ended at 1:22 a.m. Richmond time Sunday, Gordon finished second behind winner Clint Bowyer and qualified for the Chase by edging Kyle Busch (who finished 16th) by a mere three points.
"We made some drastic changes and, man, did it bring the car to life," Gordon said. "We just never gave up."
Busch, however, was visibly frustrated after failing to make the Chase. Carl Edwards, who nearly won the title last year, also missed the playoff. The last 10 races, Edwards said, "won't be much fun at all."
Here are the drivers who did make the Chase, which starts Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.:
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
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