One step forward, a heckuva lot more steps back.
Until recently, that’s been the road map of Jeff Gordon’s 2013 season. For much of 2013, any signs of momentum have been quickly squashed by trouble and bad luck.
That ninth-place finish at Phoenix that catapulted him into the top 10 in points? It was followed by a 25th at Las Vegas and a 34th at Bristol. That third at Martinsville? The encore was a 38th at Texas. Another third at Darlington? After that, a 35th at Charlotte. And so on, and so forth.
But no more. Gordon has shed those stumbles of late, and finds himself back in the top 10 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings for the second time this season – and first since Phoenix. Comparatively, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates have set up camp in the top 10 all season long. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have been in the top 10 in points for all 20 races this season. Kasey Kahne has been ranked in the top 10 for 13 of the 20 weeks.
Gordon’s recent climb was built on consistency. He finished second at Sonoma, eighth at Kentucky, 10th at Loudon and seventh at Indy – that’s four top 10s in the last five races. He has chipped away at the deficit toward the top 10 necessary for a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth, climbing from 16th five races ago to his current position of 10th.
So after all that, what now? To paraphrase Jake Taylor, the captain of the Cleveland Indians in the classic movie Major League: “Well, then I guess there’s only one thing left to do. … Win the whole freakin’ thing.”
And it starts now. No one has more wins at Pocono than Jeff Gordon. No one has led more laps at Pocono than Jeff Gordon. Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway just might signal the start of Gordon’s victory march to Chicagoland Speedway, the host site of Chase Race No. 1.
Gordon has four top 10s in the last six races at Pocono – two of which were victories. He won this race last year (his sixth win overall at the Tricky Triangle) after starting 27th to become only the third driver to win at Pocono after starting outside the top 25.
And it shouldn’t stop at Pocono. Gordon has 24 wins and a driver rating of 97.3 at the remaining tracks in the Race to the Chase.