There is nothing like holding the points lead in NASCAR.
At least, until this year.
This year, it only means something if you haven’t won.
Which is what points leader Jeff Gordon wants it to mean. For now. Until he wins.
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Being the points leader, Gordon has a spot in the Chase right now. The points leader is in the 16-car playoff field, with or without a win — but if he has a win, it doesn’t matter if he’s the points leader or not.
What’s it all mean? It means the points lead is nice. But it almost means nothing right now as the Sprint Cup season resumes after a one-week break with a race at Richmond on Saturday night.
“I mean, the pressure’s always there to win,” Gordon said two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway, when he finished second. “You always want to win. Winning benefits you whether it’s this points system or any other points system. Winning is the ultimate.”
The points lead does say something for Gordon, however. It reflects a resurgence in the performance of Sprint Cup’s third-winningest driver ever.
He had a shot at wins in California and Fort Worth. He ran strong at Darlington before finishing seventh. He has had a 100 or better driver rating in six of the eight races. And he’s been in the top 10 in six of the eight races.
“It’s important to be consistent because that helps get you in a position more often to win,” he said. “Every race that goes by that there’s a different winner, the pressure gets more intense. You just got to go look at that next opportunity and try to put yourself in that position to go win it.”
At Richmond, Gordon has another good shot at getting that win. It’s a short track, and Gordon is a strong short track racer, with 16 career victories.
But it’s been 14 years since he had a win at Richmond.
This would be a good year for one.
“We’re running really strong, and we’re consistently running strong,” he said. “I know that opportunity’s going to come for us.”
Spurred on by a tweet from big Redskins fan Dale Earnhardt Jr., Robert Griffin III will drive the pace car on Saturday night in Richmond.
The track is in Redskins country, so it makes sense. On top of that, the Redskins quarterback will get a garage tour with Joe Gibbs Racing owner and former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
First to three? Kevin Harvick is the first driver to two wins, and he’s got a good chance to be the first to three. At Richmond, he has personal bests in laps led (945) and top-10s (16). And he’s won two of the last five races there.
Still winless: Eight races into the season, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth remain winless. The last time that happened was 2001.
Championship start: JR Motorsports has posted three wins, four top-5s and 13 top-10s behind drivers Regan Smith and Chase Elliott. The organization has yet to win a Nationwide series championship.
Suarez debut: Daniel Suarez makes his series debut, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. The 22-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico, has won four times this year in developmental series. He’ll run a NASCAR K&N East series race later Friday and then a NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series race on Saturday.
Will Power’s points lead looks like it can only get bigger over second-place Mike Conway, because Conway is not scheduled to run in the six oval events before September.
30 Laps led needed for Kyle Busch to become the 15th driver with 10,000 laps led. He has led 30 or more laps in seven of his 18 Richmond starts.
“Definitely a good day. Definitely take second from 14th. Good for the championship, not that I want to think about that crap anymore. I just want to race. I’m just going to race to win every time.”
— Will Power, IndyCar Series points leader and three-time series runner-up, after his finish at Long Beach