WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — It’s been nearly two decades since Jeff Gordon won his first Sprint Cup road race. He has one more chance to add to his legacy on the two twisting courses NASCAR visits each year.

A five-time winner at Sonoma and four-time winner at Watkins Glen International, Gordon is NASCAR’s leader in road course wins heading into Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at The Glen.

Another would make it a perfect 10 – it would be the first victory of his final season and, more importantly, pretty much secure a spot in the 10-race Chase for the series title. Drivers with at least one win and in the top 30 in points are virtually assured of a spot in the field of 16. So far this season, there have been 11 winners, though one of them, Kyle Busch, remains 13 points outside the cutoff.

Gordon sits 10th in points and in a comfortable position with five races to go before the Chase.

“There are no guarantees unless you get that win. That win means so much,” Gordon said Friday before going out and pacing the second Sprint Cup practice, the memory of his crash at Indianapolis two weeks ago a stark reminder of how quickly a big advantage in points can vanish. “It’s important for us, if we can’t win this race, to be really solid, get a good solid finish.”

What is most impressive about Gordon’s nine road course wins is that the first six were in succession, starting at Watkins Glen in 1997 and ending here three years later.

“That’s incredibly amazing,” said Rusty Wallace, who finished his Cup career with six road wins. “I can’t believe anybody did that, but he did. You get on a roll, man.”

“It’s pretty remarkable,” added NASCAR icon Richard Petty, also a six-time road course winner. “That was a crowning deal as far as road racing is concerned.”

The streak might have reached seven, but a hard-charging Gordon, who was inside the top five early in the 2000 race at The Glen, was involved in a wreck with Tony Stewart while speeding up through the esses and never was a factor. Their postrace confrontation in the garage afterward remains one of the signature moments since the Cup series began racing regularly at Watkins Glen in 1986.

“We were really on top of our game at that time,” said Gordon, who credited crew chief Ray Evernham for much of that success. “Early on, I just remember wanting to take on every challenge as a team, to improve to be a bigger threat to the championship. We worked hard at it, and that hard work paid off. Back then you had to try to be good everywhere because every track mattered. It was something that we pursued heavily. I enjoyed it even though I didn’t grow up road racing.”

Gordon hasn’t won here since 2001.

It’s not as if Gordon hasn’t had his chances. He won the pole here a year ago, besting road race ace Marcos Ambrose for the top spot, and led nearly a third of the 90-lap race before an electrical problem just past the midpoint spoiled his day.

THE FAMILY OF a young driver struck and killed by Tony Stewart’s car on an upstate New York sprint racing track filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NASCAR star.

The lawsuit was filed as Stewart returns to Watkins Glen International on the one-year anniversary of the crash.

The lawsuit accuses Stewart of gross negligence, saying he gunned his engine and put his car into a skid as 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. walked onto the track after a crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9, 2014. The car struck Ward and he was killed.

A grand jury declined to indict Stewart, who at the time called it “100 percent an accident.”

Ward’s parents, Kevin and Pamela Ward, requested a jury trial seeking unspecified monetary damages, claiming wrongful death, reckless conduct, gross negligence, and their son’s terror and suffering.