Jeff Gordon finds himself in dangerous territory. With 10 races remaining in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Gordon currently sits 16th in the point standings, 19 markers behind current 10th-place runner, Tony Stewart.
Missing the Chase would guarantee that Gordon would fail to crack the top-10 in the final point standings for just the third time in his illustrious career and only the second time since his rookie season in 1993.
Should Gordon be unable to crack the top-10 by the time the Series leaves Richmond in two-and-a-half months, he will most likely need to have scored at least one win to be in line for one of the two available wild-card berths. As of right now, he has zero.
The good news for Gordon is that, this weekend, the Sprint Cup Series makes their annual trip to the road course in Sonoma, Calif. Over the course of his career, this has been a track where Gordon has prospered.
Gordon has started 20 consecutive races at Sonoma Raceway since 1993. In that time, he has amassed five victories at the track, while posting 16 top-10 finishes, with 12 of those resulting in a top-five. He has also won the pole for five of those events.
In the 20 races at Sonoma that Gordon has started, only one other driver has posted multiple victories. Stewart has taken the checkered flag twice.
Gordon has qualified inside the top-10 an astounding 16 times in 20 tries, and he has led more than one-fifth of the laps that he has run there. His 450 laps led are the most among active drivers. Only twice has he failed to finish on the lead lap and just once has he failed to be running at the conclusion of the race.
Though he has failed to win at Sonoma in his last six attempts, Gordon has posted a top-10 in each of them. But unfortunately, a good run may not end up being good enough this time.
Since the 2007 season, Gordon has only managed two wins, from a total of 60 races, in the events that occur after the series leaves Sonoma and before the beginning of the Chase. That makes getting a win this weekend all the more crucial.
Gordon realizes the importance of this weekend in Sonoma. So much so in fact, he and his team tested at Road Atlanta recently, in preparation for the upcoming road course races. According to motorsport.com:
"It’s been nearly a year since we raced on a road course, so that test was just getting back on one – shifting, down-shifting, left turns, right turns. Sort of ‘general’ testing, and to recognize what we may be dealing with this weekend based on past experience,” Gordon said.
All signs seem to point to a must-win race this weekend for the four-time Sprint Cup champion. With 87 career wins, everyone knows that Gordon is a threat to win at any track on the circuit. But at a time when he desperately needs to get one more, what better track than the one that he once dominated?