For defending race winner Jeff Gordon, the party in the Poconos may begin race morning. Will the celebration continue well past that afternoon's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway?
Gordon, who will celebrate his 42nd birthday on Sunday, will make his 42nd start at the 2.5-mile track this weekend. His six victories and 965 laps led are tops at "The Tricky Triangle" while he also has two poles, 18 top-fives and 28 top-10's in his previous 41 starts at the Pennsylvania track.
"This is a very challenging track, but I love racing here," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. "In June, we had a fast race car but we struggled early in the run.
"We need to find some more speed early in the run while also having a fast car over the long runs."
In this event one year ago, Gordon restarted sixth just past the halfway mark and was able to 'clear' Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne before turn 1. When contact sent the top four out of the groove or into a spin, Gordon drove the inside lane to the lead - and to victory since a persistent rain halted the race short of full distance.
"I love the fight in this team," said Gordon. "Last year, we battled hard all day long and got into a position to battle for the win. We got a little bit of a 'gift' at the end to win, but we worked hard to put ourselves in a position to take advantage of any miscue."
"It was Alan's (Gustafson, crew chief) birthday and he had family with him, and my family was here with me, too. It was just a special win."
Last Sunday at Indianapolis, Gordon finished seventh to move up to 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings - the first time he has been in the top 10 since the second race of the season. Four top-10 finishes in the last five races have advanced the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion up six positions in the standings.
"We've had some fast race cars, but we just need to string together some strong finishes," said Gordon. "It seems like every time we get some decent finishes, something happens to halt that momentum. We have six races left before the Chase, and we need to make the most of them so we can earn a spot.
"If you earn a spot, the points reset puts you right back in the title hunt."
And a fifth series title at age 42 is definitely not out of the question.