NASCAR & Auto Racing

Gordon always happy to return to Kansas Speedway

KANSAS CITY, Kan. —Jeff Gordon broke out into a wide smile at the mere mention of Kansas Speedway.

He loves everything about Kansas' 1.5-mile tri-oval from the time his DuPont Chevrolet is unloaded until he leaves the media center following another podium finish.

So when NASCAR awarded two NASCAR Sprint Cup races to Kansas Speedway starting in 2011, Gordon voiced a pipedream of a question.

"Are they both going to be in the Chase?" Gordon joked. "Can we have two Kansas races in the Chase? I'll take that."

Gordon will have to settle for one race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Kansas Speedway, and that will be the Price Chopper 400 at noon Sunday.

Gordon won the first two Sprint Cup races at Kansas in 2001-02, and he has posted top five finishes in each of the last three years, including second last year to Tony Stewart.

Considering Gordon sits in eighth place, 83 points behind Denny Hamlin after two races in the Chase, this has to be the week Gordon makes his move if he expects to contend for the championship.

"When I look at the 10 races in the Chase, Kansas is one that stands out," Gordon said. "It seems like it was just yesterday we won those first two races there, and Kansas seems like a new track to me still."

Gordon nosed out Ryan Newman in each of those first two races, and the 2001 win helped propel him to his fourth and last Cup championship.

"I think everybody wants to go to a new track, new market and win that race," Gordon said. "I know that was the case for us, to win there and wanting to be the team that figured it out the best and the fastest. We did that. We had a little bit of luck on our side, too."

Gordon may need a little more luck, if not some victories, in the Chase. In the first two races of the Chase, he's finished sixth at New Hampshire and 11th at Dover and lost 23 points to Hamlin.

Gordon, 39, was consistent enough to qualify for the Chase with 10 top fives and 14 top 10s and an average finish of 11.9 in the 26-race regular season. But Gordon, whose 82 career wins rank sixth all-time, has not won a Cup race since April 5, 2009 at Texas, a stretch of 56 consecutive races without a victory.

"Consistency is always important, because if you run consistently up toward the front, then you give yourself a better chance at winning races," Gordon said. "The only thing I'm disappointed in this year so far is we have had three or four opportunities to win, and we didn't get it done. So we have got to go now and have (eight) spectacular weeks. We can't just go be consistent. That's not going to win the championship, unless we are consistently second.

"If you're Jimmie (Johnson) or Denny, those guys can go be consistent. They don't have to win, but I expect those guys will win. But if they are consistent, they are going to be really, really tough to beat."

Gordon is one of four drivers in the Chase (along with Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton) who have failed to win a race this season. He was second at Phoenix in April and the first Richmond race in May and has been third four times.

"I wish we had been closer to some victories like we were in the first 10 races," Gordon said. "I don't know if it's Hendrick (Motorsports) as a whole, or just us; we seem to have lost a little bit ...

"With this car these days, you can be off the tiniest bit, and it can look like a lot; and you can find a little thing, and all of a sudden, it looks like you've gained at ton. That's why you just never count yourself out, even when things aren't going well."

And he certainly doesn't count himself out of any race at Kansas Speedway, either this weekend or twice a year in the future.

"If you look at the facility and how that community has grown over the years since we first started going there," Gordon said, "it is pretty unbelievable. I think now with the casino coming, that whole area is just going to explode."

Bowyer appeal denied — An appeals committee denied Richard Childress Racing's request to have Clint Bowyer's championship-ending penalty reversed, and the team owner vowed Wednesday to fight the decision to NASCAR's highest level.

Richard Childress emerged from NASCAR's research and development center in Concord, N.C., after a nearly 5-hour hearing fighting the 150-point penalty levied against Bowyer after the car he drove to victory Sept. 19 at New Hampshire failed inspection.

"After so many hours of whatever you want to call this, the ruling stood," the team owner said. "I gave them the check and an appeal notice to the commissioner. We're very disappointed. Nothing unexpected the way this thing works."