NASCAR: The Next Two Races Will Determine Jeff Gordon’s Fate
Jeff Gordon is one of the best to ever step into a stock car at NASCAR’s top level. Nobody can debate that. The topic of debate swirling around Jeff Gordon for the past ten years has been when the drive for five will park itself at the front-stretch of Homestead-Miami Speedway celebrating Jeff Gordon’s fifth career championship.
No longer even the best driver from the team he elevated to the pinnacle of NASCAR, Jeff Gordon’s prime is behind him. Certainly consistent, the Chase for the Sprint Cup has robbed Jeff Gordon of his fifth championship while creating Jimmie Johnson’s legacy. Time is running out for the best driver of NASCAR’s fourth generation car.
2013 was a time of change not only for NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports, but the number 24 team. DuPont and its support are gone from Hendrick Motorsports, and Jeff Gordon’s place on the proverbial depth chart at Hendrick Motorsports remains in question.
After a tenth place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon is the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver outside of the top ten in points. Teammate Kasey Kahne not only resides in tenth position, but has a victory to fall back on in the wild card standings. Both Martin Truex Jr. ahead of Gordon and Tony Stewart behind him also have crucial victories.
All of this does seem pretty damning, but it is absolutely not. Lately the cream has been rising to the top, as drivers like Stewart and Gordon get hot over the summer stretch. Upstarts such as Paul Menard and Aric Almirola have fallen off of the map after scorching starts. Despite it being the nineteenth race of the season, only 13 points separates ninth place Brad Keselowski and fourteenth place Kurt Busch.
Also in Gordon’s favor is that the tour visits two of Gordon’s best tracks when he needs it most. Between Pocono Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon has ten wins.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also one of the hardest tracks on the schedule. Setup mastery is a necessity, and talent always finds ways to shine at the track. This marks the Generation Six cars first time at the track, something that should only benefit the veteran Gordon.
Of the last six races at the 2.5 mile track, Gordon has only finished outside of the top ten once. Gordon averages a top ten finish almost 80% of the time, and has qualified in the top ten the past three races.
Despite being 41 years old, Gordon won at Pocono last year, and has an average finish of 10.2. Gordon’s last six races at the tricky triangle include two wins, four top ten finishes, no DNF’s, and a twelfth place finish during the only Generation Six race at the track.
All in all, Jeff Gordon has a very good chance to make The Chase for the Sprint Cup. Having only missed The Chase once in its history, the numbers are in Gordon’s favor. It seems miraculous Gordon is even in position to qualify. His 5 DNF’s are tied for the most within the top thirty in points with Ryan Newman who finds himself practically out of contention in nineteenth. The team is full of veterans everywhere, and thanks to NASCAR’s schedule has the chance to silence all the remaining critics during the course of the next few weeks.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486
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