By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
40 races ago Jeff Gordon did something that it appeared he would never do… he won at Texas Motor Speedway. Texas had been Gordon’s Achilles Heal throughout his career, so one would think after finally capturing that race nothing would stop him. However since that win Jeff Gordon has gone win-less.
Through ten races in 2010 Gordon has led an impressive 599 laps, which is best among NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Gordon has also found himself in position for the win a handful of times already this season, yet he has failed to seal the deal. Richmond was the latest episode in a season of frustration that has kept Gordon out of victory lane. Gordon, the fans, and the media are all thinking the same thing… Will he ever win again?
At Las Vegas in February Gordon led 219 laps, and was the class of the field, but a late caution changed everything. Gordon, and crew chief Steve Letarte decided to take two-tires for track position, while his teammate Jimmie Johnson took four-tires. Johnson would prevail, and would win the race. There was certainly disappointment for Gordon, but he shrugged it off after the race and attributed it to there being no margin of error when racing against Johnson.
“We certainly showed them that we were here,” Gordon said. “I think that you’re going to see a lot more out of us this year. It is disappointing. You can’t even have one little blip with that No. 48 team — they are so strong.”
Despite the disappointment, Gordon had his head held high with the performance of his race team.
Three races later Gordon led 92 laps at Martinsville, and late in the race he looked to have it wrapped up again as he was the leader on a green-white-checkered finish. When the green flag came out, a shoving match ensued between Gordon, and Matt Kenseth. The end result? Gordon ended up third, and Kenseth slowed to an 18th-place finish, while Denny Hamlin visited victory lane. The disappointment escalated a little more, as was obvious by Gordon’s decision to send Kenseth out of the groove on the final lap.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened on that last restart. I got an OK restart,” Gordon said. “Spun the tires a little bit, got going. I looked at my mirror, and the 17 was pretty far behind me. … Next thing I know, I got nailed”
“I made sure he didn’t win the race down the straightaway.” Gordon explained.
The next race at Phoenix, Gordon again found himself as the leader on the green-white-checkered finish due to pit strategy, but he just couldn’t hold off Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman. Newman snapped a 77-race win-less streak, while Gordon was left wondering yet again what he’d have to do to win a race again.
Then came Texas. Gordon came in with high hopes as this was the venue of his last victory. Gordon led a race-high 124 laps, but late in the Samsung Mobile 500 Gordon was mired in traffic. On his route back to the front he made contact with Tony Stewart, which started off a chain reaction pileup. Gordon left the track with frustration yet again.
At Talladega Gordon, was working his way to the front, until his teammate Jimmie Johnson cut him off, which forced him below the apron. From there Gordon was swept up in “the big one”, and his day was yet again doomed. Gordon only led four laps on the day, but he was among the players all day long for the win. This accident obviously set Gordon off, as months of frustration boiled over, and he lashed out at his teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon said after the race, “the No. 48 is testing my patience, I can tell you that. It takes a lot to make me mad and I am pissed right now.”
The two worked out their differences this week, and Jeff Gordon came to Richmond refreshed and ready to chase for the win. Kyle Busch led early, and often, but a little after mid-race Gordon was able to get the lead when Busch’s car went away. Gordon would go on to lead 144 laps, and it appeared he had the race all sewn up… but then inside the final 30 laps the caution flags began to fly. This closed the field in on Gordon, and on a late restart Kyle Busch was able to get by the four-time champion. Busch would cruise to the checkered flag while Gordon was left with a second-place finish.
After his latest heart-breaking defeat Jeff Gordon had this to say, “Unfortunately, those cautions came out. I got two good restarts. Then, you know, the guy I did not want to have to race on the restarts, who was unbelievable on restarts earlier in the day, was Kyle. When I went, he timed it perfect, got to my outside. I was a little bit loose. We weren’t that good on restarts anyway. He just smoked us.”
“The last couple times we were leading on those green-white-checkereds, I didn’t get very good restarts. Tonight I thought I pretty good one, but we just didn’t have the car,” Gordon said, “We’ll keep working at it. But I’m not ticked off. I’m pretty excited about the way we’re running.”
How many more times can Gordon shrug off missing victory lane before he snaps? Or can he finally seal the deal? Only time will tell for sure, but for now with how great his car has been all I have are questions. Has Jeff Gordon lost his edge? Will he ever win again? I believe he will win again, but in my opinion he has to start capitalizing on these opportunities.