The drive for five is finally complete for Jeff Gordon after Indianapolis, but his goals for this season are still far from over. With two wins so far and a place firmly atop the traditional points standings, there might be another drive for five in Gordon's future.
This time, it would be for a Sprint Cup championship.
Gordon was a huge story on Sunday after the Brickyard 400, but what led up to it has shaken the NASCAR world. Carl Edwards is officially departing from Roush-Fenway Racing at the end of the season, but his future plans are still up in the air.
Rumors have swirled for months that he might land with Joe Gibbs Racing, but those have also been refuted. Regardless of where he lands, one team will be adding a competitive driver who already has two victories this year.
With the Sprint Cup circuit now heading to Pocono, the Chase standings are also heating up. Just six races remain before NASCAR's postseason begins, so an emphasis is being put on winning by every racer.
Here's a look at the schedule, latest team news and top drivers ahead of the GoBowling.com 400.
GoBowling.com 400 Information
Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, Aug. 3, 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Latest Team News
This week in team news has essentially surrounded one man.
Edwards is still currently a driver for RFR, but it's clear now that he won't be at the end of the Chase. While he'll be heading elsewhere after this season, Edwards spoke about focusing on finishing this season strong, per Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press, via The Dallas Morning News:
Right now, the mission is to win this championship, this race. This is my decision, it’s a decision I made and I didn’t take it lightly. Sometimes you just want to make a change, and opportunities present themselves and you say, ‘Hey, what was that like to not take that opportunity?’
Since his first full-time season with Roush, Edwards has 23 wins with the team and has been a consistent contender for a championship. Unfortunately, he's fallen short by finishing second twice in 2008 and 2011.
The 34-year-old has no doubt seen the success of both Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick since joining new teams. Given a chance to leave for a new team, Edwards will likely look to mirror their success.
Regardless of where he lands, Bob Pockrass of Sporting News doesn't believe race fans should blame the driver:
It’s simple, really. He’s an awesome talent. And he just wants to see what he could do somewhere else.
Is Joe Gibbs Racing better than Roush Fenway? Right now, it is. It already has three other drivers who could win championships. Roush Fenway has only one other driver who has made the Chase. …
So don’t blame Edwards for turning his back on Roush and taking his services elsewhere. Life, as Edwards says, is a journey. It’s time to move.
As for the man that took the checkered flag on Sunday, Gordon made plenty of history with the win.
Not only was it Gordon's fifth trip to Victory Lane at Indy, it also marked his 90th Sprint Cup victory. That is a mark only matched by two other legendary drivers, as ESPN Stats & Info notes:
Jeff Gordon wins Brickyard 400. He's 3rd driver with 90 career wins in NASCAR Cup Series history (Richard Petty, David Pearson).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 27, 2014
It was also more proof that Hendrick is still the dominant force in NASCAR. With Gordon's win, Hendrick now has seven victories—more than any other team—and three drivers in the top five of the standings.
To put that into perspective, Team Penske has been the closest competitor with five victories and two drivers in the top 10. Needless to say, it's becoming clear that Hendrick is still atop the throne nearing the Chase.
Drivers to Watch
Keeping with the trend of Hendrick at the top of the food chain, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be eyeing his third win this season. One of those came at Pocono, so he's already proved he can find success at the track.
As usual from his results this season, Earnhardt heads to Pocono after a top-10 result at the Brickyard. Though he's been upset in the past finishing inside the top 10, he was happy with his performance at Indy:
That's a 9th place finish we can be proud of. Lost a lap yellow during a pit cycle and passed more cars than anyone. Great car again.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 27, 2014
On the heels of that great race, he heads back to a track that still has his burnout marks from June 8. That victory was his first at Pocono but could be the site of more history from the Sprint Cup contender.
Junior will have to fend off his Hendrick teammates, who have a combined 11 victories at the track. Whether it's Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Gordon or Kasey Kahne, it's likely that a Hendrick driver will be waving a checkered flag on Sunday.
Coming up short has been a theme for Brad Keselowski this season, but he also has a slew of wins.
With five second- or third-place finishes this year, Keselowski has three victories as well. One of those close calls was at Pocono, where the Penske driver led the most laps (95) before losing to Earnhardt.
Keselowski spoke about the disappointment of falling short at Indianapolis in the post-race interview:
We fought through a lot of adversity today. I don’t know, I think if the race would have played out a little better we probably could have ran second or third. I’m not sure we really had anything for the 5 or the 24, but it’s hard to say. We were right there otherwise and have a lot to be proud of.
That theme might once again continue on Sunday, but there is no doubt Keselowski will be competitive. With one win and three top-five finishes in just nine starts at Pocono, he is one of the best drivers at the track with a 92.8 driver rating.
Though Hendrick will be hard-charging again—as usual—Penske is the one team that can hold them off. If Keselowski is at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday, he'll look to become the first driver with four victories this season.
Who will win at Pocono?
Call me crazy—I'm sure many will—but this just feels like the week it finally happens. It, of course, being Kyle Larson reaching Victory Lane.
The 21-year-old has separated himself in the rookie standings but is barely in the Chase at this point. Of his four top fives this year, one of those came at the Tricky Triangle after leading seven laps.
Larson has been impressive thus far, narrowly falling short of collecting his first checkered flag multiple times. After missing several shifts the last time out at Pocono during tests, Larson spoke about his biggest flaw, per Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network:
It seems like I’m probably the worst shifter of all time in a stock car. It’s kind of embarrassing missing a lot of shifts.
That’s my biggest worry going into this weekend, making sure I don’t miss any shifts. My timing is just off. I think I try to rush things too quick, and I start missing shifts.
After learning from his experiences, expect Larson to be a strong contender yet again at Pocono. If he can improve upon what appears to be his lone weakness, this might be a week to remember for the rookie.
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