Two races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup and Jeff Gordon is already playing catch-up.
Gordon moved up two places to eighth in the standings last week, thanks to a sixth-place finish at the AAA 400 at Dover International Raceway.
Now Gordon is at a track where he has excelled - Kansas Speedway for today's Price Chopper 400.
Gordon has won twice at Kansas. The problem is he does not feel totally comfortable on all 10 Chase tracks. Other drivers, he thinks, are more secure on Chase tracks, particularly Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson, who is second in the points standings behind Mark Martin.
"If I could take 10 races from the schedule and put my best 10 races together, I would throw out a couple of the ones that are in the Chase," said Gordon, who trails Martin by 122 points. "(If) you ask Jimmie Johnson that question, he will say that those are pretty much - other than maybe Talladega - those are 10 or nine of his best tracks.
"I think that that certainly plays a role. You have to be good at all of the tracks to win the championship. The timing of it, you can have a great year, you can win as many races as want, but you've got to have everything going your way in those final 10."
Gordon has won four NASCAR championships in his 17-year career, but they were pre-Chase titles. Then, points were accumulated throughout the entire season before the format switched in 2004 to today's two-segment format.
"I still think it comes down to the best overall team that's going to win the championship," Gordon said. "So I'm not against it. I love the format. I just think that it has not suited my style as much as the old one, because the old one, it's about being consistent over 36 races, not just being able to knock it out of the park or be consistent over 10 races."
Gordon came closest to winning a title under the new format in 2007, when he finished second to Johnson.
"In '07, we did as great of a job as we can do and we still lost," he said. "So I don't want to make excuses. I want to win the Sprint Cup championship under this format, and I would be so proud and honored to do it, because I know just how tough and challenging this has been on us."
Gordon also has not won a championship since being paired with crew chief Steve Letarte. The chemistry between the pair, which has been together since 2005, has sometimes been criticized.
"You can say whatever you want to say," Gordon said. "I feel like this year we've had some of the best cars we've had in a long time. I give Steve a lot of credit for that. I love what he brings to the team. I think he's very smart. But there's going to be criticism.
"You can take every team out there and give them exactly the same car, but you're still going to have somebody finish first and somebody finish 43rd.
"But you go into Texas like we did earlier in the year and we lead the points and everybody praises him and says how amazing he is. Then you get into the Chase and things don't go our way, it's easy to say, 'Oh, well, this isn't the right combination' and everybody points fingers."
Gordon also talked about his in-car style and whether it sometimes doesn't fit Letarte's race-day strategy.
"I can't change my driving style ... at this point in my career," he said. "I have a certain feel and a balance that I'm looking for out there in the car versus (teammates) Jimmie, Mark (Martin) and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior. All of us can describe a certain feel totally different than the other.
"So it really just comes down to results."