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Rahal was 16th or worse in four of his last six races prior to Iowa.

“I’m really proud of the engineering staff and everyone. For everybody to keep coming back week after week with their chins up means a lot to me. I felt like I could have won the race,” Rahal said.

About the only thing Rahal got wrong in Iowa was his belief that IndyCar and Iowa are parting ways.

CEO Mark Miles gathered reporters for an impromptu chat Sunday morning to reiterate IndyCar’s support of Iowa. In fact, Miles said that the series and the track are hoping to agree to a multiyear contract before next season.

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BIG BOOST: Jeff Gordon never got a chance to see how strong his car was at Michigan because he was collected in Bobby Labonte’s early accident six laps into the race.

The four-time champion finished 39th and dropped to 16th in the Sprint Cup standings.

So his runner-up finish at Sonoma on Sunday was a much-needed shot in the arm for a team that knows it’s better than what the results have been showing.

“I’m kind of glad that we came to a road course and broke up the ovals because we sort of needed that,” Gordon said. “This will definitely give us a boost, and, hopefully, we can start putting some races together and find that win or two.”

Sonoma was Gordon’s best finish of the season, and he’s gone 19 races without a consecutive top-10. But it helped him gain three spots in the standings, to 13th, where he’s trying to either race his way into the top-10 or pick up some wins to make himself eligible for the Chase.

But Gordon doesn’t want to hear about the Chase.

“One of the things we need to do more of, me personally, is stop looking at the points,” said Gordon. “It seems like every time we get close to the top 10, something happens. I’m going to stop thinking about the points. If we live up to our potential and we don’t get caught in some of these silly things that we have been caught up in this year, there’s no doubt in my mind we can work our way into the top 10.”

Next up is Kentucky, the only active track on the Cup schedule where Gordon has never won.

But he’s made progress at Kentucky, finishing fifth last year, and thinks if he can have a solid qualifying effort he might have a shot Saturday night.

“Prior to last year’s race, I might have considered this to be one of my worst tracks,” said Gordon. “But we had a good car and a good run here last year _ one that we want to improve upon. Of course, we have the Generation-6 car here for the first time. We’re learning every single week with the new Chevrolet SS, and we’re learning every single trip to Kentucky.

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