Jeff Gordon surging at the right time

August, 7, 2012

NASCAR can be quite fickle. Earlier this season, we saw some races, most notably at Martinsville Speedway, where Jeff Gordon had victory snatched from under his nose.

At Pocono Raceway, the pendulum swung back the other way, as it's apt to do. With the rains moving in, the top four cars got into trouble and Gordon was able to drive from fifth to first, and the green flag never came out again.

But it's not just a race-by-race basis where we see said fickleness. Currently the battle for the second wild-card spot is being decided by who has more fifth-place finishes. There are still five races left until the Chase, but it shows that every position in every race could make a big difference.

Mastering geometry

The win was the 86th of Gordon's career, and his sixth at Pocono, which is more than any other driver in the 70 Cup races held at the "Tricky Triangle."

It also snapped a 31-race winless streak for Gordon, stretching back to last year's race at Atlanta, where he began to look like a Chase favorite. And although he's outside of the top 10 and has just moved into a wild-card spot, you can argue that Gordon is again a title contender, based on how he's been performing.

Over the past seven races, no driver has accumulated more points or top-10 finishes than Gordon, with six top-10s and 275 points.

Trivia break! What driver is second in points over the past seven races?

Hendrick heats up

It wasn't too long ago that my research duties included looking up Hendrick Motorsports' longest winless streaks and stretches to start a season. Now, it's quite the opposite.

Hendrick drivers have been victorious in seven of the past 11 Sprint Cup points races, not to mention wins in the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race. No other team has more than one win in that time.

For the second time this season, Hendrick has won three straight races. If HMS gets to four in a row, it'll be the first time a team has done that in the Cup series since Hendrick had streaks of four, five and six races in 2007.

Trivia break! Other than Hendrick Motorsports, what was the last team to win four straight races?

The Chase is on?

There might be five races until the Chase, but history says there's a pretty good chance that this is the field.

In three of the five seasons since the Chase expanded to 12 drivers for the 2007 season, the field with five races until the Chase ended up being the final field.

In the other two seasons, only one driver each year raced his way into the field after being outside with five to go: Matt Kenseth in 2008 and Brian Vickers in 2009.

Trivia break! The only season that had two drivers race their way into the Chase field after being outside with five to go was 2004. Who were the two drivers?

Trivia break answers

1. Brad Keselowski is second with 264 points. No other driver has more than 243.

2. Roush Fenway Racing won four straight in 1993, the last team other than Hendrick to pull it off.

3. Mark Martin and Jeremy Mayfield raced their way into the field.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.


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