May 21, 2012
By Matthew Pizzolato
This season hasn't gotten off to the start that Jeff Gordon envisioned.
His team has been running well, but hasn't been able to produce any kind of decent results. He's mired at 24th in the point standings. Unless he can reel off two or three wins before the cut-off for the Chase, his chances of qualifying for NASCAR's post-season aren't looking too good.
Gordon would still have to be within the top-20 in the points and have enough wins to even qualify for the Chase. But while his chances don't look that great, he still hasn't given up yet.
"Well, it doesn’t look good right now. But we’re basing that off being in the top 10 in points. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the top 10 in points if you’re running eighth every weekend," Gordon was quoted as saying at a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "You’re not going to win the championship that way. So, to me it’s about winning races and I know that we’ve been capable of winning races this year even though the results don’t show for it."
While his team has been capable of winning races, he's been the victim of circumstances beyond his control. Lady Luck has not been kind to Jeff Gordon this season. He lost an engine at Daytona, dropped a cylinder at Kansas, and has had more than his share of cut down tires.
In the races that he's been able to finish, he's posted decent results: an eight at Phoenix, a twelfth place at Las Vegas and a fourth at Texas. However, those finishes have been wiped away by his back luck at the other tracks.
Gordon had a chance to win at Martinsville, or at least finish 1-2 to his teammate Johnson, but David Reutimann's car stopped on the track, bringing out a late race caution. Both Gordon and Johnson were caught up in a wreck on the ensuing restart.
About the only thing he's been able to do this year is watch his teammate's success.
While Dale Earnhardt Jr., hasn't won a race yet, he has been on a quite a tear this season and currently is third in the points. Jimmie Johnson rebounded from his penalties at Daytona and his rapidly climbing up the charts.
All the while, Gordon slips further and further behind. If he drops any further in the points, a few wins won't help his bid to make the Chase. Still, he seems lost as to what to change.
"I don’t know what the secret is to figure why things haven’t gone our way. We need to change our luck; change something we’re doing. I feel like our cars are good," Gordon said. "We’re running competitively and all we can do is just go to the next race and keep working to improve and get some breaks to go our way. And there’s no doubt (if) you win two or three races, you’re in the Chase. So we’re not counting ourselves out of the Chase at all."
He may not be counting himself out of the Chase, but he should be very concerned. There's no doubt that Gordon is capable of winning races and even championships, but it seems his luck took a sour turn when NASCAR went to the Chase for the Championship format. He hasn't won a title since 2001, but would have won two more if the points were tallied under the old system.
Still, he doesn't know have any ideas on how to change his luck.
"There’s nothing more we can do. We’re trying to win every weekend. It’s not like we’re riding mid-pack and didn’t have a problem. We’re battling hard and what more can you do than what we did at Martinsville? I even look at Bristol. We had a really strong car that day. The No. 88 (Earnhardt Jr.) got into me and cut my tire. Those types of things; I mean there’s nothing more we can do. It’s always interesting what people say. Oh, now you can take more risks. We’re taking risks all the time. There’s nobody out there trying not to win."
Yet even if he does manage a miracle and qualifies for the Chase, what would his chances for winning the title be with the kind of luck he's been having?
Perhaps he should be taking more risks because for Gordon, it's too late in the season to be points racing. Anything short of a win just isn't good enough.
Without two or three wins, Gordon has two chances of qualifying for the Chase: Slim and None.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
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