By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jeff Gordon is a realist, but he also has reason to be optimistic.
Through seven races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Gordon is third in the series standings, 26 points behind co-leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon knows the odds against both drivers having trouble in the next three races are long, but the four-time champion also believes he can make his presence felt if he can narrow his deficit to the front-runners appreciably in the next two weeks.
In fact, Gordon knows exactly where he'd like to be in relation to the leaders entering the season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"It's hard to make up more than 10 points on either one of those guys in a single race," Gordon said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's AAA Texas 500. "So, I would think that you'd need to be within 10 or 12 points at Homestead.
"I do know we had a great test at Homestead. I felt like we have a very fast race car and I would love to be in that position at Homestead, because I do think we could put some pressure on them. Those guys make very few mistakes.
"We're not expecting anything out of them this week, next week or the week after that. Again, all we're doing is trying to do our job the best that we can. But it would be pretty exciting for our race team to go into Homestead and be maybe 10 or 12 points out. That would be pretty exciting."
Gordon collected his first victory of the season last Sunday at Martinsville, and he can draw inspiration from another former winner at NASCAR's shortest track. Tony Stewart won at Martinsville, Texas, and Homestead in three of the final four races of 2011 to win the championship in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.
Austin Dillon took exception to remarks Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick made after Harvick and Austin's brother, Ty Dillon, wrecked during hard racing in last Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville.
Harvick referred to Ty Dillon as a spoon-fed "rich kid," intimating that the grandsons of Richard Childress had their racing opportunities handed to them.
Dillon responded in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
"My grandfather has given my brother and I both a great opportunity to go out and take advantage of," Dillon said. "If anybody out there doesn't think that I should go after something that is in front of me, I don't know what to say.
"I feel like this opportunity has been put in front of me, and I am very blessed."
Appearing in the Texas Motor Speedway media center on Friday afternoon, Dillon elaborated.
"I did that interview, and I posted it on my Twitter (account) for everybody ... to see, because I felt like I answered that question as good as I possibly could," Dillon said. "It was honest, and it was from the heart, and as soon as he (Harvick) saw it, he messaged me and he asked me to come talk to him when he got to the track.
"We had a conversation in the motor home, and I think we're both better for it at this point in time. He apologized -- and was nice."
Both Austin and Ty Dillon were entered in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas. Austin Dillon was sporting an orange lining in his cowboy hat to raise awareness of NASCAR's partnership with Drive4COPD during COPD Awareness Month this November.
The Dillons lost their paternal grandfather to COPD, a debilitating lung disease.
HIRE OUR HEROES
Greg Biffle is sporting a Chip Foose-designed "Hire Our Heroes" paint scheme on his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, honoring military veterans who work in the collision repair business.
A number of those veterans have been chosen to attend Sunday's AAA Texas 500, along with the auto body shop owners who nominated them. The veterans and shop owners will experience pre-race activities from pit road.
A list of the veterans who will be honored in this manner appears here: www.3MCollision.com/hero-race.
NOTES: Clint Bowyer paced Saturday's first NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at 188.422 mph but suffered cosmetic damage to his No. 15 Toyota from a brush with the outside wall during the session. ... Brad Keselowski and Kenseth topped the chart with identical speeds (189.434 mph) during the final practice session. ... Johnson was 16th fastest after dealing with two minor problems during the second session -- a tire rub on his opening lap and a broken footboard near the throttle pedal that required repairs after Johnson had completed 19 laps.