By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Gordon has a problem with the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- currently, he's not in it.
But Gordon also has a solution, and it doesn't necessarily involve winning a race before the Chase field is set after the Sept. 7 event at Richmond.
Gordon is tied for 11th in the series standings right now, and that's not quite good enough to make the 10-race Chase. The top-10 drivers in points after 26 races qualify automatically, along with the two wild-card drivers from positions 11-20 with the most victories.
Gordon has no wins this year. Martin Truex Jr., tied with Gordon for 11th, has one victory. So does Tony Stewart, who is 13th in points. That makes Truex and Stewart the provisional wild cards and leaves Gordon on the outside looking in.
Gordon, however, would be in a better position if he could stop taking a step back for every two forward. After running third at Dover and 12th at Pocono, Gordon was wiped out in an early crash at Michigan and finished 39th.
A week later, he was second at Sonoma and followed that with an eight-place result at New Hampshire, only to crash out of the July 6 race at Daytona in 34th place. Throughout his up-and-down season, Gordon has maintained a flirtation with the top 10, but it has been a tumultuous, uncomfortable love affair.
On the other hand, it's nothing a string of strong finishes can't cure, and Gordon doesn't think he can afford a cautious approach to the seven races that remain before the Chase field is set.
"That's the beauty of where I'm at in points," Gordon said Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard. "I don't have to dial back anything. We're in full-on aggressive mode.
"Do we have to win? No. But do we have to put seven really good races together? Yes. In order to put good races together, I'm talking top fives. You look at the guys we're racing against, and they can easily do that.
"We have to push and not pull back. I don't know of a time where I went into a race -- maybe I go back to the 1997 championship -- where we were really the whole time thinking about points. Every time I've thought about points, it's cost us more positions than we've gained."
That's the attitude the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and four-time Brickyard winner plans to bring to Sunday's race.
"That's what we're going to do this weekend, and that's what we're going to do every weekend," he said.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG TRACK
A NASCAR race under the lights at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
That's not just a far-fetched dream. In reality, lights are among capital improvements reportedly being considered by the top brass at the Brickyard.
Lighting the 2.5-mile speedway, however, would be an enormous proposition.
"Boy, you're going to need nuclear power to light this place," Clint Bowyer said Friday morning. "You're going to have to shut down downtown to have enough power to light this track -- it's huge. But I don't know. I don't know that (lighting) matters.
"Just look back at all the races that have been run on this place. That's what's important about this track, in my opinion, is the tradition of coming back here. I think that's why the fans have come here for years and years and years. It's always been a day race -- I don't see why it shouldn't be."
TOPPING THE CHARTS
Something about Indianapolis Motor Speedway seems to bring out the best in Juan Pablo Montoya.
In Friday's lone NASCAR Sprint Cup practice session, Montoya topped the speed chart at 185.410 mph, more than a full mph faster than the 184.347 mph posted by Kurt Busch, who was second quickest.
Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, led 116 of 160 laps in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Brickyard, only to be done in by a pit road speeding penalty. Friday's practice session suggests that Montoya may be ready to make another competitive run at his first NASCAR win on a track that's not a road course.
Behind Montoya and Busch in practice were Austin Dillon, 2011 Brickyard winner Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne, as Chevrolet drivers posted the five quickest laps in preparation for Sunday's race.
A two-hour final NASCAR Sprint Cup practice is scheduled for 9 a.m. ET Saturday, with qualifying set for 2:10 p.m.