It took unprecedented circumstances both on and off the track, but on the third attempt, Jeff Gordon was in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup for the ninth time in 10 years.
The decision to place Gordon in the Chase and expand the field to 13 drivers came directly from NASCAR CEO Brian France, who pointed toward the "unprecedented and extraordinary set of circumstances" that devised to originally keep him out.
"I'll admit, it's been a rough week," Gordon said Friday at Chicagoland Speedway. "It was a lot of up-and-downs of emotions for this entire team this week. ... I'm very appreciative, very thankful to be in.
"I know it's under the most unbelievable circumstances I've ever been a part of in my racing career and I wish that all of this hadn't happened. I wish that we could have just raced for it on Saturday night, but that wasn't the case."
The opportunity for Gordon to race his way into the Chase was denied through series of events in last week's regular season finale at Richmond that included a driver intentionally spinning himself out, a team telling its driver to pit without cause and two teams brokering a free pass atop the spotter's stand.
But as Gordon rejoiced in having his playoff hopes revived, Martin Truex Jr. was left wondering why he was still on the outside looking in.
Following a 50-point penalty issued to Michael Waltrip Racing Monday by NASCAR for scheming to alter who qualified for the Chase and who didn't, Truex was knocked out of the Chase. This is despite clear evidence he knew nothing of the machinations MWR was enacting in the closing laps trying to get him into the Chase.
His feeling of frustration was only compounded when NASCAR added Gordon to the Chase mid-Friday afternoon.
"I'm not even sure what to say at this point to be honest with you," Truex said following his qualifying run. "I'm kind of at a loss for words. They kick me out to make a spot for somebody and then they don't do the same for the other guys. It's just unfair and nothing I can do about it."
If there is someone who can sympathize with Truex's plight, it would be Gordon, who doesn't understand why Truex is being held accountable for his teammate's actions.
"To be on that stage after the race is over, to feel like that pressure was off, that they made it in," Gordon said. "I know what that's like. He drove his butt off. I raced with him in the closing laps and he raced hard. You could tell what he was racing for. The guy didn't do anything wrong.
"The only reason I'm accepting being in the (Chase) is because under normal circumstances I would say no, that's not right. But under these circumstances, I feel there is enough reason for us to be in. I know how hard we worked and that we earned the right to be in."
With his playoff hopes now redeemed, Gordon is set on making the most of his opportunity. He said the unusual events surrounding his last-minute addition to the Chase has "lit a fire" under his team and he's focused on winning a fifth series championship.
"I know we haven't shown it yet this year, but this team is ready to show it now," said Gordon, who in winless this season. "The one thing is when you get yourself in this position you want to show the world ... the ones that support us and the ones that didn't that we belong here and there is a reason why we're in this thing."