[media-credit name=”Dan Sanger” align=”alignright” width=”237″][/media-credit]Throw away the good luck charms. Forget the prayers. Stop the hoping and pleading. Everything Jeff Gordon and his fans have been doing the season’s first 20 races – and he admits to trying the good lucks charms which were sent to him – isn’t working.
It’s time to start looking for a miracle if he’s going to make this year’s Chase. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet is having a season he’s never experienced before. Statistically one of the worst in his career, realistically a nightmare as bad luck has been the only thing Gordon’s got going for him.
Sunday even a track that had crowned him a winner four times wasn’t too kind. Gordon finished fifth in the Crown Royal presents the Curtis Shaver 400 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis. Yet, just as could have been the case in Daytona, Martinsville, or Dover, Gordon didn’t have enough on his side.
“I’m pretty disappointed really,” he revealed afterwards. “It’s always nice to finish in the top five but at this point in the season, the way our season has gone with so many missed opportunities that we’ve had, I feel like it was a little bit of a missed opportunity today.
“We needed track position there at the end and we didn’t get it when it counted most and it cost us.”
It was a hard fought finish as it’s been all season for Gordon and his Alan Gustafson led team. They qualified ninth but hung around the top five all day. Mostly running in the tire tracks of dominant teammate Jimmie Johnson. Midway through the race it appeared Gordon was going to overtake Johnson and flex his muscle, but was never able to.
He did earn the lead during a round of green flag pit stops, yet found himself unable to run down the leaders and make a pass for the lead during the 160-lap event. He stayed with Johnson though, and did everything he could to make the best of the situation. Hoping something would give him the break he needed.
Gordon’s final pit stop took away any chance of that happening. A car he felt at one point was the one to beat, or at least was second to Johnson, wasn’t going to finish there. The team had a 15 second stop on pit road and lost their track position and a shot at clean air.
“I have no idea. I have to review it,” said Gordon of the stop. “The one thing about this pit road is that if you get a little behind, once you get up here, you’re way behind because they pull out in front of you and the next one pulls out in front of you and that’s what happened.
“We lost more than we should have but that wasn’t so bad. The worst thing was when you start on the outside lane; my car would just not go on that outside lane. And then they got all jumbled up and we lost even more spots. And then we had another caution on the outside lane again, so it just wasn’t out day.”
Just six races before the Chase starts Gordon can’t afford to have anymore days not go his way. It’s too late to fight for top 10s or claw out a top five, he needs wins and he’s yet to find Victory Lane in 2012.
And one win wouldn’t cut it either. In order to make the Chase from a wildcard position he needs to win a few races. Teammate Kasey Kahne currently sits in the first WC spot with two wins, Kyle Busch holds the second WC spot with one.
Gordon sits 15th in the standings but Sunday was just his third top five finish. The good news is that he’s won at each of the next six tracks leading to the Chase. That would be 23 times: five wins at Pocono, four at Watkins Glen, two at Michigan, five at Bristol, five at Atlanta and two at Richmond.
Gordon will need days like those to save his season. And he’ll need more cars like the one he drove on Sunday to make it happen.
“I was happy with the car. Other than the first run, I was happy with the car all day,” he said of his race. “We were a little bit too tight. We freed it up and from that point on, I thought we had the car to beat. We just never could quite get that track position and get close enough to that No. 48 [Johnson] to try to make a pass on him.
“But it was a good solid day for us. You know I love this place.”