CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jeff Gordon viewed his Brickyard 400 win as a turning point for his race team. Confidence had been building with every strong run but his victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway pushed his crew to another level.
It was suddenly clear to all of them that the Sprint Cup championship is a reasonable and reachable goal.
“I think Indianapolis, we were the best car and were able to execute all day and win the race,” crew chief Alan Gustafson said Wednesday. “That gives us confidence and I don’t want to say added incentive, but just an added confidence in our ability in what we can do moving forward.”
But Gustafson now has his work cut out for him the next six weeks. Gordon is already locked into the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship field, which buys time to look for every ounce of speed possible and build the fastest cars they can before the opener at Chicago in September.
He must walk a fine line the next several weeks with the No. 24 team of not letting them get overconfident or lose sight of the biggest prize.
“Obviously right now you don’t want to wear the guys out,” he said. “You want to get everybody rejuvenated. But we have to continue to push on our cars and make as many technological advances as we can, improve the car as much as we can, go into the Chase with good cars and execute.”
With NASCAR switching to elimination rounds for the Chase, setting up a winner-take-all finale, it’s also important for teams to be able to handle adversity. Not being able to immediately bounce back from a bad day could get a driver booted from the Chase field.