By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
At Daytona in February, Jeff Gordon hinted to reporters in a preseason question-and-answer session that he might consider leaving the driver's seat of the No. 24 Chevrolet if he wins a fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this year.
After Gordon's third victory of the season in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400, a fifth championship is a distinct possibility.
But don't expect Gordon to retire, even if he wins the title. He's enjoying himself too much.
How much? Enough to take on sponsor 3M for three years on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The length of the deal for the new primary sponsor suggests Gordon will drive for at least three more years as he establishes an identity with the company.
Another strong hint that Gordon's tenure will extend beyond a potential championship was the pairing of crew chief Greg Ives with Dale Earnhardt Jr., starting next year.
If Gordon's departure were imminent, it would be logical to keep Ives with heir apparent Chase Elliott, with whom Ives has enjoyed success in the Nationwide Series at JR Motorsports.
And even if Gordon wins the championship this year, he'll have another goal staring him straight in the face: teammate Jimmie Johnson's six titles. Gordon helped bring Johnson into the Hendrick fold and, for the last 12 years, has all but ceded the role of "alpha" driver to his teammate.
As competitive as Gordon is, reclaiming the top of the pyramid is something he'd relish enormously.
--Nine total stickers total for Hendrick Motorsports this year on their Victory Lane loyalty card. One more, and they get a free 24-oz. fountain drink at participating victory lanes.
--The Pure Michigan 400 in a nutshell -- if your first name is Kyle, your day sucked.
--On Twitter this Tuesday: "@JimmieJohnson: 48th person to join the human wall protecting me from Ryan Newman wins my Michigan hat. No repeat winners."
--Odd final round of qualifying for the Camping World Truck Series. Most of the trucks left way too late and didn't make it to the line in time. As a result, they didn't record a qualifying lap, but they did become eligible to run an airline.
(Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own -- but chances are you have probably figured that out by now.)
26: The number of races between Jeff Gordon's two most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at Michigan International Speedway. Gordon took the checkered flag at MIS on June 10, 2001 in his last championship season. On Sunday, he won his third race at the two-mile track.
20: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races Jeff Gordon has won from the pole position, fifth most on the all-time list. Gordon claimed the Coors Light pole award for Sunday's race at Michigan with a track-record speed of 206.558 mph and went on to take the checkered flag.
4: The number of consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway in which Joey Logano has both started from inside the top 10 and finished inside the top 10. Logano has two ninths, a third (Sunday) and a win from the pole at MIS since joining Team Penske in 2013.
3: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories recorded at Bristol Motor Speedway by Matt Kenseth, the defending winner of the IRWIN Tools Night Race. Kenseth would like nothing better than to win for a fourth time at Thunder Valley on Saturday night, given that a victory would lock him into the Chase.
54: The number of laps led at Bristol Motor Speedway by Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifier AJ Allmendinger, second only to the 152 laps Dinger has led at Dover. The driver of the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Chevy followed his victory at Watkins Glen with a strong 13th-place run at Michigan on Sunday.
Last year, the Bristol winner's list looked like this: Kasey Kahne in the spring, Matt Kenseth in the fall. Kenseth's lofty points position (he's fifth) means he likely has a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But Kahne could use a win, badly. He's currently outside the Chase Grid, nine points behind Greg Biffle for the 16th and final spot. ... Michigan saw five more drivers clinch a spot in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. With 12 different winners and only three races left in the regular season, all one-win drivers are guaranteed a spot on the 16-driver Chase Grid (assuming they start the remaining races in the regular season). Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch have all now locked up a spot. Only four spots remain. ... Sunoco rookie dynamo Kyle Larson suffered his first NASCAR national series last place finish on Sunday at Michigan, dropping him outside the current Chase Grid. But, there's good news coming -- immediately. Larson has finished in the top 10 in all four of his NASCAR national series races at Bristol, a slate that includes a 10th-place run in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut there in March. He's finished runner-up there twice in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
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