Sports

Jeff Gordon happy to be 'under the radar'

Is it possible a four-time Sprint Cup Series champion and one of the most recognizable faces in NASCAR could enter the series championship race unnoticed?

Jeff Gordon certainly would not mind.

"I think I'd rather be under the radar a little bit going into the Chase," said Gordon, who enters today's race as the sixth seed.

Jeff Gordon fly under the radar? Is that even possible?

With Tony Stewart rolling to a big points lead in the first 26 races, Mark Martin surprising everyone in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports and the tight battle for the 12th spot in the Chase, Gordon's name has been mentioned less than usual.

Is there any advantage to that? Gordon thinks there can be.

"There's enough pressure from inside your team and on your own shoulders that you don't want anything adding to that. I'm just happy going into it," he said.

"I've been on both sides of it. As close and as tight and competitive as this series is right now with these cars, I'd prefer to have that. If we had the dominant car that was just going to go wax everybody then I'm fine having the bull's-eye on my back, but that's not the case these days."

Perhaps not, but it is hard to believe some of his competitors will not be keeping an eye on Gordon.

He has one win this season - in the spring at Texas - and has finished second six times. Plenty of times when races were playing out in the final stages, Gordon was in the mix.

There is no reason to think that will not happen again in the final 10 races beginning today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Gordon has finished second at New Hampshire in three of his past five races there, including this season's race in June. He owns three wins at the track, the most recent in 1998.

There is still work to do, Gordon said.

Although he finished seventh in points last year and made the Chase, Gordon ended the 2008 season with no wins and he already has one less top-five and one less top-10 finish in the first 26 races this season than he did all of last year.

"We really had to rebound from last year's effort. We just were kind of a nonfactor," Gordon said. "And this year, I think, the effort has really shown in the results.

"I felt like the first 10 races we were on our game and were strong and had a shot to win some races, like at Texas, which is something I never thought I would do and then lost a bit of momentum, and Tony (Stewart) came on strong and Mark (Martin) and Jimmie (Johnson). It was a little bit disappointing."

In recent weeks, Gordon said his team's performance - though it may not have captured the attention of fans - shows he is a contender this season.

"I feel like the last five or six races we have really been able to get some things turned around and I feel like we are really well prepared for the next 10 races," he said.

"(We have) a little bit of momentum for us going into the Chase. Hate to have a deficit, but sixth is better than 12th. In the final 10 races, a lot is going to happen, and I think we have a great shot at it."

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