The year is 2013. On September 13th (Friday the 13th, btw) NASCAR made an unprecedented decision to put Gordon into the Chase as a 13th entry following a week of juggling and penalties concerning Michael Waltrip Racing drivers at Richmond.
Gordon logged his first win of the season in Martinsville at the GOODY’S Headache Relief Shot 500 which has injected new hope into the #24 with three races remaining. He has driven from the 13th points slot to 3rd. However, these next three races may stretch the luck of his drive. He is 27 points off the lead. The mathematics of racing keeps him within the margin but Lady Luck needs to keep smiling on the #24 and turn sour on Hendrick team mate Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing. The #48 and the #20 are tied for the first position following Martinsville.
To add to the mix, as much as Kenseth and Johnson, Gordon is also racing a very determined Kevin Harvick. Harvick is one point behind Gordon in the Chase. Harvick would like nothing more to enter the 2014 season with his new Stewart-Haas team as the defending champion.
The luck of racing is often a dual edged sword. For Gordon to really get into position Kenseth and Johnson need to fall back. Some sort of scenario would need to put the #20 and the #48 into the garage at some point in order for the #24 to make double digit gains in the Chase. That could, however, also help Harvick move into position. If you really tweak the numbers you could put Bowyer, Dale Jr., and Biffle into it.
For Johnson and Kenseth, the last 2 races (Talladega and Martinsville) have put them into a real battle. Kenseth had the lead and Johnson pushed past at Talladega. At Martinsville, Kenseth finished ahead of Johnson at the checkers but only enough to tie the Chase for first place.
Texas, Phoenix and Homestead remain. Lady Luck, from the finish line at Martinsville, has dealt the hold cards. The skill and determination of the drivers and teams may become secondary to the luck of the cards. We know none of them will fold so it is “all in” from here on out.
We will see the flop at Texas, the turn at Phoenix and the river will drop at Homestead. The final table has a couple of big stacks but a good draw by anyone at Texas can tumble the numbers.
So far, “Lucky 13” Jeff Gordon has been gaining chips. We’ll see if he is pushing his luck to the breaking point. For Johnson and Kenseth, it could be a situation where they race each other while trying to keep their cars out of harm’s way.
“Harm’s Way” could be the wild card of Harvick.
Set up the table, call some friends, deal the cards and let’s go racing!