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Jeff Gordon ready to take on 'Track Too Tough To Tame' again

Jeff Gordon has seven NASCAR Sprint Cup victories at Darlington Raceway, third all time.

Jeff Gordon has seven NASCAR Sprint Cup victories at Darlington Raceway, third all time.

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Jeff Gordon had long planned to be at Darlington Raceway this weekend, largely to greet fans and answer questions about his career as a four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

Gordon now has a bigger job as a fill-in driver for injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.: win tonight's Southern 500 and lead the Hendrick Motorsports team into the Chase for the Championship.

And there might be no better place for Gordon's experience to shine than Darlington, where he's third all time with seven victories.

"It's a track that I'm comfortable on and that I like," he said last week. "I hope I can put that with a result that this team deserves."

It has been a whirlwind summer for Gordon, 45, who was settling into post-Sprint Cup life after retiring at the end of 2015.

Gordon enjoyed his role as a NASCAR broadcaster this season, and his quality time with wife Ingrid Vandebosch and children, Ella, 9, and Leo, 6.

"It was balancing out really nicely, all going according to plan," he said.

But team owner and friend Rick Hendrick asked Gordon to return to the No. 88 car after Earnhardt was sidelined in July with concussion symptoms. Earnhardt announced Friday that he's out for the season.

Now Gordon is back at "The Track Too Tough To Tame," the 1.333-mile egg-shaped oval where only David Pearson (10 wins) and the late Dale Earnhardt (nine) won more.

"First time all year I have some valuable notes about the package and what the car should be like," Gordon said. "I'm hoping that can help me get up to speed and help the team."

Chase at a glance

The 10-race Chase for the Championship starts Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Clinched (in order of seed)

Four wins: Brad Keselowski (774 points), Kyle Busch (696)

Two wins: Kevin Harvick (799), Carl Edwards (724), Denny Hamlin (691), Jimmie Johnson (648), Matt Kenseth (633)

One win: Kurt Busch (721), Joey Logano (716), Martin Truex (652), Kyle Larson (582), Tony Stewart (420)

Needs to stay in top 30 in points (one win): Chris Buescher (30th, 334)

Contenders

In as points stand: Chase Elliott (628), Austin Dillon (622), Jamie McMurray (616)

Outside looking in: Ryan Newman (601), Kasey Kahne (564), Trevor Bayne (558), Ryan Blaney (545), AJ Allmendinger (544)

Sprint Cup points

Through 24 of 36 races.

Driver Pts Back

Kevin Harvick** 799—

Brad Keselowski**** 774 25

Carl Edwards** 724 75

Kurt Busch* 721 78

Joey Logano* 716 83

Kyle Busch**** 696 103

Denny Hamlin** 691 108

Martin Truex* 652 147

Jimmie Johnson** 648 151

Matt Kenseth** 633 166

* Wins

Tonight's race

Southern 500, 6, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway

TV/radio: Ch. 8; 102.5-FM

Jeff Gordon ready to take on 'Track Too Tough To Tame' again 09/03/16 [Last modified: Saturday, September 3, 2016 8:13pm]
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