Jeff Gordon is the widest known active NASCAR driver there is. He’s more popular than his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. The only driver close to his popularity level is Danica Patrick, and that’s because she’s gorgeous.
Unlike Patrick, Gordon doesn’t moonlight as a model, so he kind of has a disadvantage there. However, Gordon was named as the 13th driver in this year’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Though it was a questionable move, it was likely because he’s Jeff freakin’ Gordon.
Gordon’s career is unfortunately winding down. Though he has a lifetime contract with HMS, Gordon’s sponsorship with Axalta and AARP’s Drive-to-End Hunger campaign ends by 2016. If they don’t resign with the most famous driver in NASCAR, Gordon’s career will likely be shut down. It would certainly be a great way to end a career if Gordon can win a championship sometime within the next two-three seasons.
On Thursday evening, Gordon recorded his 74th career pole in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He’s third on the all-time list for poles behind Richard Petty and David Pearson who have 123 and 113 respectively, something no one will ever go remotely close to. Now that he’s ending his career, Gordon’s goals are far different from what they used to be when he first entered the sport.
Now, Gordon has climbed up to fourth in the standings. The No. 24 Chevrolet is just 32 points behind Matt Kenseth for the points lead with six races remaining. Winning the pole this weekend should give Gordon an advantage after qualifying outside of the top-10 for the past two weeks. After not having the best of regular seasons, Gordon has come on strong during the chase, finishing no worse than 15th in the four races so far.
Gordon has been on a win-less drought since Homestead last year. It’s not the first time, nor the last, that Gordon has gone on a long win-less streak. It’s just one of those things that happens towards the end of a career. You aren’t going to be seeing a baseball player that’s 40-years old hitting home runs every week, he’s going to go on some slumps. That’s what is happening to Gordon.
This pole award may be a gift to the four-time champion. He’s keeping the “drive for five” alive as now he’ll be in great position to gain some positions in the points race as the season winds down. Even if Gordon doesn’t win the championship, he’ll be bringing this unforeseen momentum into 2014. Gordon may not be winning races, but he’s arguably been the strongest car at three of the last four races. If he (and his pit crew) didn’t make mistakes that were preventable, he could have won a race or two by now, being closer to the lead than he is.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.