After famously struggling at Texas Motor Speedway throughout his career, Jeff Gordon finally broke into the winner's circle on April 5 of this year.
The victory ended his 47-race drought and allowed Gordon, and his legion of faithful fans, to let out one satisfied sigh of relief.
Fast-forward seven months and the season has a slightly different look. With only three races remaining, and Jimmie Johnson all but assured of an incredible fourth-straight championship, the rest of the field, and the Chase drivers, will all be driving for pride.
Gordon is no exception. Although he is currently third in the Chase, his 192-point deficit is looking larger by the minute. Despite this fact, everyone should expect a strong, competitive race from the No. 24 car and the rest of the field.
Further proving this point is the fact that Gordon was able to win the pole yesterday, posting a qualifying lap of 191.117 mph. This was Gordon's first pole of the season and kept his incredible streak of now, 17 consecutive seasons with a pole, going.
This display of consistency has placed his streak behind only two other drivers in the history of the sport—David Pearson (20) and Richard Petty (18) are the only ones with longer streaks.
Given his historical struggles versus his recent success' at Texas, it should be very interesting to see how Gordon performs tomorrow.
While Jimmie Johnson does have a commanding lead, it is not completely insurmountable. Another trip to victory lane for Gordon, coupled with a Johnson crash (or similar poor finish) could make the next two races much more interesting.
Gordon has now won at every track on the current NASCAR schedule except one. And what track is that? The Homestead-Miami Speedway where the Chase finishes up.
Gordon has already made it a year of new accomplishments and a win at Homestead, even in a non-championship winning capacity, would be a sweet ending to his season.
Another story that cannot be ignored is the tragedy that occurred at Fort Hood this week, just 130 miles from Texas Motor Speedway.
The shooting rampage occurred on Thursday and took the lives of 13 people and injured 31 others. NASCAR has always been closely tied with the Armed Forces, both in car sponsorships and in general mindset.
NASCAR fans are some of the most openly patriotic people in the country, and Sunday's race is sure to show an outpouring of support and emotion.
At the end of Friday's practice a huge U.S. Army logo was painted on the frontstretch grass at TMS.
Employees of the track will wear black armbands throughout the weekend and a moment of silence for the fallen personnel will be observed before the start of each race.
Just as is the case after every tragedy, we must never forget what happened, but we must try and move on. Sports are often a great way to provide people with some relief from pain and sadness, if only for a while.
Sunday's race will have repercussions for Jeff Gordon and the Chase field, but also for the fans from the surrounding area, and all over the country, who will be grieving.
All we can hope for in this situation, is a good race that brings joy to all fans. I expect this to be the case.