Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 AARP / Drive to End Hunger Chevy team started the 2012 NASCAR season as always trying to match and/or beat Jimmie Johnson the team that he owns. Every team starts the season trying to match and/or beat the No. 48 team. It wasn’t going to happen right from the start.
A blown engine at the season opening Daytona 500 and a subsequent 34th place finish isn’t anything to concern a four-time Champion like Jeff Gordon. Then pit strategy, on track issues, another engine failure relegated Jeff and his team to simply trying to survive and make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Entering the Richmond race, the last race before the Chase, Jeff and his team was thirteenth in points and looking to miss the Chase. This was disappointing after two weeks with a car capable of winning the race with finishes of third and second respectively. Jeff was able to continue that trend and finish the race second moving up in the standings to ninth in the standings to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Jeff Gordon making the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the last race at Richmond was the 10th best moment in the 2012 NASCAR season. Unfortunately that moment didn’t last as Jeff’s up and down season continued throughout the Chase.
Jeff’s frustrations boiled over at the end of the second to last race of the season at Phoenix with an uncharacteristic payback on Clint Bowyer.
The best thing Jeff has going for him is he was able to put the 2012 NASCAR Season behind him with a win at a track that he and Hendrick Motorsports hadn’t won at. Jeff ended the year with two wins, 11 top fives and 18 top ten finishes. The stats alone look pretty good but getting there was painful at best. Regardless, Jeff finished the season tenth in points his second worst finish since 1993.
Jeff said after winning the last race at Homestead Miami, “That’s the kind of team that we’ve been this year. We’ve had to have one another’s backs because we’ve all made mistakes this year. And so to be able to celebrate with them in victory lane was very special, very meaningful, and gives a tremendous amount of momentum to go into 2013 with the new race car.”
Jeff Gordon and his team probably had one of the toughest seasons in memory, but to battle back and get a tenth place finish in the standings is something they can talk about and build upon in the coming year. Taking that into account, they should have all the confidence they need to carry on into 2013.