LOUDON, N.H. (AP) -- Jeff Gordon is in the midst of his worst season, and hardly has the look of a contender for NASCAR's Nextel Cup championship.
But he isn't seeking a scapegoat, and if he were it wouldn't be crew chief Robbie Loomis. One of the most common remedies for problems in NASCAR is to fire the man responsible for setting up a failing car. Gordon has no intention of doing that.
"As long as Robbie wants to be the crew chief, he's going to be the crew chief," Gordon said at New Hampshire International Speedway, where he'll race today in the New England 300. "He works so well with this race team. We brought him here for a reason."
That reason wasn't to stand a career-worst 15th with only eight races remaining until the field is reduced to the top 10 drivers and any others within 400 points -- an unlikely scenario -- of the leader. Gordon is 502 points behind pacesetter Jimmie Johnson and 126 out of 10th place.
Despite being saddled with six points-robbing failures to finish in 18 starts, the four-time series champion won't blame Loomis.
"At no time have I doubted Robbie," Gordon said. "There have been times when I've doubted myself. But I know we've got the right people in place and the right team and the resources we need."
Still, Gordon has no answers in a season that probably will end without him being part of the big show. The worst career finish in his first 12 years on NASCAR's elite circuit was 14th in points in his rookie campaign of 1993.
The failures have been so rampant -- including five recent finishes of 30th or worse -- that Gordon isn't even in position to make a run at the top 10 without those immediately in front having consistent problems from now until the cutdown for the Chase for the Championship. The elite field will be finalized after the race Sept. 10 in Richmond and begin its run here the next week.
Gordon said his problems -- among them being crashed out a few times by others -- are varied.
"The weeks that we have run good, I felt like we've run into some bad luck," he said. "And then we've had weeks where we've just run badly and either also have bad luck or just ran bad and finished bad.
"There is no doubt that it gets frustrating. You wonder when it's going to stop and when we're going to get it turned around."
Strong runs needed
Gordon, who qualified 21st Saturday, is now faced with needing extremely strong runs and no bad finishes if he's to make the cut. Jeremy Mayfield, who reached the final 10 a year ago with a victory in Richmond, has no such problems.
He's ninth in the standings, 40 points clear of relegation, and filled with confidence. Still, Mayfield is cautious.
"We can't do anything different now just because we're in the top 10," he said. "We were in and out of the top 10 a couple of times last year and then we fell to 15th, but we're not going to do it this time."
He says only Johnson, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart are in a position of relative comfort.
"You can go from fourth to 10th or from eighth to 15th quick," Mayfield said. "It looks like people are points racing, but nobody has had a real good year except Greg Biffle."
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