In other words, Gordon scored his best finish since June at Infineon Raceway despite the fact that JR Motorsports' Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski was ready to fill-in as needed in the No. 24 Chevrolet.
Gordon started 13th on Sunday and for the first time in a long time in 2008, he actually was a steady figure in the Top-10 and didn't fade over the course of the race, instead moving up steadily as the race wore on. Simply, it was a close resemblance of the No. 24 team of the 2007 season that was clicking on all eight cylinders.
In post-race interviews, Gordon cited a couple of factors for the decent performance:
"That's the thing about a great team. When one team member is down other guys rally and pick up the pace and that's what they did with me today. I'm very thankful for that. We had some pit practice this week not to mention the test in Charlotte. I think all of it paid off even though I'm sick it all paid off. Great top-five effort."
As for the pit practice comment, Gordon actually showed up this week with the pit crew last week -- likely at the Hendrick shop -- for practice as a whole, instead of having someone fill in as a driver.
While I doubt it made a big difference in his pit approach, it likely sent a message to the whole team that he's a team member, too, which can only build good things -- especially at a point in the season where the length of the NASCAR schedule starts to take a toll on a team that is hanging on for dear life at a potential Chase run.
Racing sick, and running exceptionally well for that matter, is something Gordon has done in the past at a road course race he won. The event was the 1999 event at the 11-turn Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. and Gordon won the race that day despite being noticably under the weather in victory lane.
Gordon is indeed a longshot for the championship in 2008, but this team could sure use a dose of momentum to lead in to the offseason and it looks like it will get it.