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« Will strong finish by Edwards result in 2011 success? | Main | Hendrick moves not made solely for the purpose of appeasing Junior, Gordon »

Gustafson may offer Gordon his last shot at championship glory

By admin | November 23, 2010

By Richard Allen

Unless the Koreans have caused a worldwide calamity by the time this column gets posted the most earth shattering piece of news for most people reading this will be that of the shake up at Hendrick Motorsports.

Almost certainly, the vast majority of pieces written in the initial wake of the news will be on the subject of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. acquiring the services of crew chief Steve Letarte. In my view, however, the bigger pieces of news are that Jeff Gordon’s team will now be lead by Alan Gustafson and that his team will be run out of the shop housing the #5 car instead of the one housing the #48.

The reason I see the moves surrounding Gordon as the most important is that the driver is fast approaching a critical time in his legendary career. This coming August the ‘Boy Wonder’, as he was once dubbed, will turn 40 years old. This age is so important because there have been only four drivers in NASCAR’s modern era to have won a championship after that age.

Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt(three times) are the only drivers, at least by my hurried and unofficial count, who have achieved the sport’s highest reward after crossing over the ‘Big 4-0’.

For this four time champion, who has not won a title since 2001, the time may be running out if he is to ever become a five time champion.

Gordon and former pit boss Letarte had a number of good runs together but never seemed to find a consistent winning combination in their time as a pairing. The young and energetic Gustafson has proven to be a race winning crew chief with both an up and coming Kyle Busch and veteran Mark Martin.

Gordon certainly looked like a driver who could contend for race wins and championships in 2010, but he failed to follow through on either of those goals. And he certainly proved he still has a fire in his belly by his involvement in well publicized feuds with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton.

A change of scenery may be just the thing to re-energize his game to the point that he will find himself back in victory lane and perhaps even at the head table of next year’s season ending banquet. However, history has shown that this future Hall of Famer’s time is running short. Alan Gustafson may well provide Gordon with his last, best shot at another Sprint Cup trophy.

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One Response to “Gustafson may offer Gordon his last shot at championship glory”

  1. Marybeth Says:
    November 24th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I think that the sponsors, or lack of sponsors, played into this change. Rick said last summer that he did not listen to anyone who did not have a stake in it.
    Someone noted that neither Gordon, nor Martin, nor Jr. went over to congratulate him. They all know what they sacrificed to get JJ 5.
    I believe that the only reason they switched garages was because Jeff has had it with being a flunkie for the 48 and wanted out, the last straw being his pit crew being snatched at Texas. Chad did that without asking anyone. Jeff also got the better cc.