SPARTA, Ky. -- Jeff Gordon recognizes both the pressure and the incentive to win this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
At 13th in the standings and without a victory this season, the pressure is starting to mount on Gordon's Chase for the Championship hopes. The four-time champion has just 10 races to get inside the top 10 or score a few wins should he have to rely on a wild card slot.
"We know that this is an important race for us and every one from here on out is going to be crucial to get ourselves into the Chase as well as be a threat for the championship," Gordon said on Friday at Kentucky Speedway. "You always know if you're in it, then you have a shot at winning. Anything is possible when you accomplish that."
Gordon is getting used to this situation.
He was 18th in the standings last year at Kentucky and used a top-five in that race to catapult him towards a surprise Chase berth. He's closer to the cutoff this weekend and is convinced that his team has the means to turn their season around.
"The way that I look at this team is that we have high expectations put on us," Gordon said. "We know the pressure that comes along with that to perform. And when we don't, the criticism comes with that.
"But I also know that nobody is more capable of pulling ourselves out of a hole and getting back on track than this team. It's Hendrick Motorsports. It's the No. 24 team and we have the capability of being very, very strong and getting on a roll."
There's an added incentive to win at Kentucky specifically too.
Following his victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, Kentucky is the lone active track in which Gordon has yet to win -- and the Cup Series has only competed here since 2011. Winning on Saturday would be an important accomplishment, as Gordon emphatically explained during his media session.
"Oh my God that would be huge," Gordon said. "First because this is a very challenging race track, and one that's not easy to win on. Number two is I don't know what the plan is for adding race tracks in the future, but in the past every time we knock one off and get close to accomplishing that goal, they add another race track."
He added that he would take a lot of pride in winning at Kentucky but he has to get there first. And hitting that milestone will also help him achieve his other goal -- making the Chase.