Jeff Gordon's Dover Win Shows Rest of Chase Will Be Week-to-Week Roller Coaster

Jerry Bonkowski@@jerrybonkowskiFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2014

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 28:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Two plus seven equals one—at least that's how NASCAR's new math has worked thus far for Jeff Gordon in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

After leaving Chicagoland three weeks ago, riding high in the Chase standings (ranked second), Gordon plummeted to seventh place in the rankings after last Sunday's race at New Hampshire, losing 20 points in the process.

Like Frank Sinatra sang in "That's Life," one minute Gordon was up, the next he was down, only to rebound as he showed by winning Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

And with the points now reset heading into Race 4 next Sunday at Kansas, with all the remaining 12 Chase drivers even at 3,000 points apiece, Gordon is theoretically once again tied for No. 1.

Gordon has quickly become the poster boy for the unpredictability of this year's Chase, which, for the first time in the sport's history, has three elimination rounds in its 10 races to spice up the excitement and drama of NASCAR's marquee event of the season.

It's been up, down and up again, just like a roller coaster. That's what Gordon has done over the first three races of the Chase.

Whether he'll be able to remain strapped in his seat and keep riding that roller coaster to a fifth Sprint Cup championship—and his first since 2001—remains to be seen.

With seven races left in the Chase, and two more elimination rounds still to come after races No. 6 (Talladega) and No. 9 (Phoenix), Gordon may very well have set the tone for all of the other 11 drivers remaining in the Chase. Your fortunes can change in just one week. It's a lesson that the driver of the No. 24 car is glad he learned Sunday. 

Gordon has been arguably the most consistent driver thus far this season, including leading the Sprint Cup points standings for 18 of the first 29 weeks.

"I think that we're a team that, again, is strong enough to win, but also good enough to be consistent," Gordon said. "And I think that's what's going to get you through to the next round, and ultimately I think what it's going to take to win this championship. I'm liking the format."

That includes once again being tied for No. 1 following Sunday's win, and after NASCAR reset the points, marking perhaps the first time in NASCAR history that there has been a 12-way tie for the lead in the standings.

"We had a bad finish last week," Gordon said. "Right now because of what happened in New Hampshire, I'm kind of glad they're resetting it."

Nick Wass/Associated Press

From here, it's a brand-new Chase for the 12 drivers who survived the first round of three races. Wins will definitely help advance individual drivers to the next round, but like Gordon said earlier, it's consistency that is ultimately going to determine this year's champion.

And if he can keep riding that roller coaster on an upswing, he's liking his chances right now.

"It just gives us confidence and even more momentum to say, OK, we're in the heat of the battle; this is the crucial moments of this season of when it matters most (and) what are we capable of when that pressure is on like that," Gordon said. "That to me says a lot about who we are, the kind of team we are and what our chances are moving forward."

All quotes used in this story were from official post-race media-conference transcripts provided by NASCAR.

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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