Jeff Gordon entered NASCAR's Chase thinking he had an excellent chance to finally win his fifth Sprint Cup Series title.
But those hopes took a severe hit on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway when a broken return spring sent the Hendrick driver hard into the Turn 1 wall and placed him 35th in the final rundown – his worst finish since May.
"We were having a good day, coming from 19th to be up there in the top five," Gordon said. "I don't know if we had anything to win the race, but we certainly were giving it everything we had and that's very disappointing."
On Friday, Gordon vowed to go all-out and worry only about winning races. He was no longer going to concern himself with accumulating points – in contrast to last year when the 24 team was "too conservative" and was never a factor in the Chase.
And as promised, that attitude was on full display throughout afternoon, as Gordon clawed his way through traffic and at times raced three-wide in order to get to the front.
But now, after posting his worst result since Darlington (also 35th) and facing a steep climb up the standings (he sits 12th, 47 points behind leader Brad Keselowski) Gordon knows he needs to ratchet up the intensity even moreso in the remaining nine Chase races.
"After Richmond, we know how hard we have to fight for every position," Gordon said. "When the car is there and underneath you, you can drive it hard like that and that makes it a lot of fun for me."
"We'll be driving hard now, I can tell you that."