BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) – It’s all about momentum: Tony Stewart hopes to keep it, Greg Biffle needs to rediscover it and Jeff Gordon must find it.

Only four races remain before the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup championship, and next up is Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

Stewart enters the GFS Marketplace 400 with the hottest streak in NASCAR’s top stock car series since Gordon won four straight races in the summer of 1998 on the way to one of his four championships. Stewart has won five of his last seven starts and has finished no worse than seventh in the last eight races.

He has vaulted from 10th in the standings – 380 points behind then-leader Jimmie Johnson – to first, 105 points ahead of Johnson.

“I’ll be honest,” Stewart said. “I’ve had zones … when I was in Midgets and Sprint Cars where I could go week-in and week-out and not fall out of the top three. But to win five out of the last seven and be in the top seven for the last eight weeks is a pretty good record.”

Stewart credits his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.

“You pray that you get good race cars like this to drive every week,” he said. “But it’s not me making the difference. The team found the right package to make us go fast.”

His success can be traced to a second-place finish to Biffle on Michigan’s 2-mile oval in June. Stewart led four times for a race-high 97 laps, but Biffle won for his fifth victory in the first 15 races. It was the third time since the start of the season Stewart had led the most laps in a race and not won.

On the way back to the garage, Stewart wondered aloud: “What do we have to do to win a race?” He went on to win the next week on the road course at Sonoma and has been hard to beat since.

Biffle has struggled since that victory, with only one top five finish – fifth at New Hampshire. His No. 16 Roush Racing Ford is coming off a 38th-place finish last Sunday at Watkins Glen. Since his last win, Biffle has fallen from second to third in the standings, just eight points ahead of Rusty Wallace.

“We need a strong run to rebuild the momentum we have lost in the last few weeks,” said Biffle, who won on this track last August. “A win this week would be a great rebound from the points we lost last week, and a victory in Ford’s backyard is always something we want.”

The only drivers who have won more than two straight at Michigan are Bill Elliott, who won four straight in 1985 and 1986, and David Pearson, who won three in a row in 1972 and 1973.

Gordon needs a good run Sunday. Only the top 10 in the standings after the 26th race – Sept. 10 in Richmond – will be eligible to ride for the title in the final 10 events. Gordon is 13th, 67 points behind 10th-place Carl Edwards.

Since winning three of the first nine races this season, Gordon has had many strong runs spoiled by mechanical problems, flat tires and crashes. He finished 32nd in Brooklyn in June, and last week a flat ruined a good performance at Watkins Glen, leaving him in 14th place.

“Typically, Michigan has been a good track for us,” said Gordon, who has two wins and 14 top-five finishes in 25 starts on the track. “In June, though, we stunk.”

“We’ve had a tough couple of months, but it’s those types of races that really bother us,” he added. “When it’s something out of our control – like the flat tire we had last weekend at Watkins Glen – it’s a little easier to take.”

Gordon, however, has won at each of the four tracks left before the Chase. He is optimistic his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy team can turn things around.

“If we perform to our potential, we still have a shot of making it,” he said.

Gordon will start from the second position Sunday, alongside pole winner Joe Nemechek on the front row.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.