For the first time in half a decade – 174 races for those counting – Jeff Gordon holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead. His last points lead came after the 2009 Coca-Cola 600, following a start to the season that saw a win and two runner-ups in the first seven races.
He’s enjoying similar success this year, scoring four consecutive top 10s to start the season. His runner-up finish at Texas gives him three top fives this season. He had eight all of last year.
What does all this mean? Well, possibly nothing if he doesn’t win a race.
With seven winners in the first seven races, available spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are rapidly depleting. Only nine spots remain in the 16-driver playoff field.
One of those could go to the points leader, if winless. So, Gordon has that going for him, which is nice.
But a win would put him on much firmer ground when the Chase field is set following Richmond in September. And this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway seems as good a time as any for the breakthrough victory.
A seven-time Darlington winner, Gordon finished third in last year’s Darlington race. From 2004-2010, Gordon strung together a streak of seven consecutive top-five Darlington finishes.