Jeff Gordon, four-time Champion and Chase contender, achieved his goal of a top ten finish at the Monster Mile in the second race for the championship. Gordon finished in the sixth position in his No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet.
Prior to qualifying for the race, sitting 102 points back from the Chase leader Mark Martin, Gordon knew that he had to have a good run at Dover International Speedway.
"We need to be in the top-10," Gordon stated emphatically in one of his pre-race interviews in the media center. "That's really the bottom line."
In Gordon's opinion, while every driver may have a 15th or worse place finish as he had at New Hampshire, only one of those bad races would be possible in order to stay in Chase contention.
He also acknowledged that that there are two races where anything could happen: Talladega and Martinsville.
But Gordon was most certainly feeling the pressure of being so far behind in the Chase coming into the second Chase race. "We're in a do or do situation," Gordon said.
He continued, "Obviously we've got some ground to make up but we're not sitting here going okay, we've got to make it all up right here at Dover."
"We've got nine races to get our consistency up, our performance up."
Gordon expressed some doubts about qualifying before making his run. He was concerned about being tight and also about the grip of the tires.
Gordon also struggled a bit in practice. "We started off practice really good," Gordon said. "Then some guys got ahead of us so we sort of got off there."
Gordon expressed hope that the track would "give up a little bit" and that it would come back to him "a little bit and we can get a top-10."
The track did indeed come back a bit to Gordon. He had a successful qualifying run, putting his Dupont Chevrolet in the seventh starting position.
Gordon qualified with a time of 23.110 seconds and a speed of 155.777 mph. This put him just 0.232 shy of pole sitter and teammate Jimmie Johnson.
When the green flag flew, as he had predicted, Gordon was indeed strong for most of the race. While he never led a lap, he managed to hang in the top five in the running order for most of the race.
Gordon's crew was also doing a great job, fast on their stops and keeping their driver with good track position after pitting. But on one of the final stops, the crew encountered an air gun issue and Gordon fell back to the 12th position.
With about 30 laps left in the race, Gordon was determined to move forward. He broke the top ten and then continued his march into the seventh finishing spot.
That was the best that Gordon could do, and he seemed satisfied with his finish. But he most certainly knows that he has to not only maintain his performance but also his motivation on the track.
"I like the competition," Gordon said. "That is what motivates you."
Gordon shared that he is motivated and that one of the major motivations is to win his first ever Sprint Cup. While the driver has four championships under his belt, Gordon has never won under the new Sprint Chase format.
"I have never won a Sprint Cup before so to me it is like never winning a championship," Gordon said. "The four that we have won are something that we are very proud of but it is under the old format and so I feel like we are as hungry as we have ever been to win this championship."
Even Jimmie Johnson, the AAA 400 winner at this Sunday's race, advised that Gordon was indeed motivated. "I've seen more intensity from him over the years," Johnson said of his teammate. "I see more intensity in his eyes, more desire from him to get that fifth championship."
Gordon is also motivated by some of his activities off the track. One of his favorite motivators is his little girl Ella, who he had just a bit of a hard time letting go before climbing into the race car.
Ella clung first to her papa and then to her mother, Ingrid Vandebosch. When Ella finally said her goodbyes, she wasn't happy about leaving, that is until she got behind the wheel of the golf cart and was whisked off to the motor home.
Another motivator for Gordon this past week was his visit to Arlington Cemetery. He was able to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"It was a huge honor," Gordon said. "It puts a lot of things in perspective of just how men and women in the military have sacrificed for our freedom."
With all of these motivators in place and with Dover in his rear view mirror, Gordon is now focused on strong runs at some of the other tracks in the Chase.
Gordon admitted that he needs to capitalize at what he considers some of his best tracks coming up on the schedule.
"I think Kansas is a good track for us," Gordon said. "I think Charlotte is a good track for us. Believe it or not, Texas, I think, is a good track for us."
Gordon continued, "Martinsville is also a good track for us. So, there's lots of good tracks. We've got to minimize the damage and try to maximize the performance."
Gordon's next battle in his championship run will be one of his "good tracks", Kansas Speedway. With his top ten run at Dover, Gordon now sits eighth in points, having moved up two spots in the Chase standings.
Prior to the AAA 400, Jeff Gordon had set his sights on a top-10 finish. Having achieved that goal, he is now set to continue his quest for his first ever Sprint Cup championship.