In a similar position to last year, will Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 Axalta Racing team make another push for a "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" berth beginning with this Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway?
In 2012, Gordon entered this event 16th in the point standings with one win, four top-fives and nine top-10's in the first 23 events of the season. With finishes of third (Bristol), second (Atlanta) and second (Richmond), Gordon secured one of the 12 Chase spots in dramatic fashion.
This year in 23 races, Gordon has the same amount of top-10's (9) plus one more top-five (5), and he is also two spots better in the point standings. A win in one of the upcoming three races would go a long way to help ensure Gordon is one of 12 battling for the 2013 championship.
"Our mindset hasn't changed going into this weekend," said Gordon, who is a five-time winner at the high-banked 0.533-mile short track. "We're still going to work hard all weekend to have a fast race car, hopefully qualify well and lead some laps and be in position to battle for the win at the end of the night. That's our plan of attack every weekend.
"We have a good stretch of tracks ahead and we have to do everything possible to make the most of these races."
Along with five wins, Gordon has five poles, 16 top-fives and 22 top-10's in 41 starts at Bristol. His 6.9 average starting position is best amongst active drivers while Gordon also tops active competitors with 2,713 laps led - 1, 282 more than any other driver.
"I love this race and I love this track," said Gordon. "This is one of the few tracks that when I get here, I usually make it a point to walk the track on Thursday night and soak it all in.
"With the high banks, the speed and the grandstands surrounding the entire track, this is just such a cool place and a cool experience."