By admin | September 15, 2008
By Richard Allen
It is hard to imagine using the term struggle to describe any driver who has made the Chase for the Championship, but when that driver has set the incredible standards of Jeff Gordon the term struggle fits.
Gordon raced to a 14th place finish in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. While a 14th place finish may not sound that bad on the surface, a deeper look reveals the problem. Gordon was beaten by nine of his 11 fellow Chasers.
During the regular season a driver can withstand a 14th place and not suffer too badly in the standings. In the Chase, however, the objective is to beat the other playoff qualifiers.
To add to the misery, Gordon started the Chase with no bonus points. This is the deepest into a season Gordon has gone without a win since 1994.
The #24 team has to change the fact that they have yet to win soon if they expect to remain in contention for their driver’s fifth Sprint Cup title.
Not only has Gordon not won this season, the Hendrick Motorsports team has had a difficult time trying to find the consistency necessary to challenge for a championship. A look at the season statistics reveals that the #24 car has finished in the Top 10 only twelve times this year, and there have also been five finishes of 30th or worse.
Last year at this time Gordon already had twenty Top 10s and only one result worse than 30th. To say this has not been a Jeff Gordon type year would be an understatement.
To simply blame these struggles on the Car of Tomorrow would seem at least somewhat misplaced. Gordon won three races last year while driving NASCAR’s winged machine. There seems to be some other issue at work here.
Whatever the case, Gordon is not going to claim that fifth title with 14th place finishes. He currently sits in 11th place of the standings, 99 points behind co-leaders Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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