NASCAR Sylvania 300 Preview: Gordon says, 'we got the shaft'

Paul Ring

Jeff Gordon should be on top of the world today ... or at least the top of the Nextel Cup standings.

But as the Chase for the Cup begins with the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Gordon is 20 points behind teammate Jimmie Johnson.

"If I didn't know what the rules were going into the season, I'd say we got the shaft," Gordon said. "They made the change to the 10 bonus points (for wins) and it made the season more exciting. It did what it was supposed to do.

Last year, the series took the top 10 drivers after the first 26 races and gave the top driver 5,050 points. Each of the remaining nine received 5 points less than the one before, ending with 5,000 points for the 10th seed.

For 2007, each of the Chase drivers (there are 12) will begin with 5,000 points. On top of that, to give more weight to race wins, NASCAR officials awarded 10 points for each victory in the first 26 races.

Johnson has six wins and Gordon has four.

The difference?

Johnson's wins in the last two races - California and Richmond.

"Now we've got a 20-point lead over Jeff (Gordon) and 60 points over 12th (polesitter Clint Bowyer)," Johnson said, "and we'll just roll with it and see what happens." Johnson will start fourth today.

Don't tell Carl Edwards to "roll with it."

Fourth in the Chase, he will start 12th today after crashing his primary car during Friday afternoon's practice.

"The car was really fast," Edwards said. "It was going to be my last lap. I just drove into (Turn 3), stepped on the breaks and just slid all the way up and hit the wall."

Tony Stewart has a distraction of his own to worry about. He has yet to sign a deal for 2008 with Joe Gibbs Racing. The good news for fans is that he did take part a press conference about the team's switch from Chevy to Toyota next year, meaning he's likely to stay.

However, Stewart says he doesn't want to think about his contract until the Chase is over. "I'm not going to even work on it," he said. "Seriously. My goal is to win the championship and I'm going to focus on the things I have to do to get that done."

Kurt Busch, who enters today's race fifth in points, says it really is like a playoff atmosphere during the Chase. "Now, every position counts," he said. "Every practice session seems a little more important."

Busch earned 20 additional points for his pair of race victories. He said, though the extra points are nice, they're just a drop in the bucket.

"I don't think it would make a difference if Gordon was leading by 20 or if Jimmie Johnson is leading by 20," Busch said. "If we're all separated by 60 points, its pretty much zero in our sport. You can gain 60 points in a heartbeat."

Busch will start today's race from third. Martin Truex Jr. will start one spot ahead, on the outside of the first row.

Truex has won in just about every series he's raced in at the 1.058-mile oval. "It would mean a lot to win here," Truex said. "Because this track is one of the big reasons I'm where I am today."

Seventh in the points standings, with one race win, Truex says he's pretty confident.

"Obviously, there are no guarantees," he said. "We need to go out and perform the best we can. But the next two weeks we race at two tracks that are great tracks for me (New Hampshire and Dover, Del.). It will be important to get off to a good start and build some confidence."

The race starts at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ABC.

Paul Ring can be reached at 508-626-3821 or pring@cnc.com. Read more in the Catch Can auto racing blog at

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