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Head2Head: Will Gordon get elusive victory before Chase?

July 23, 2012, , NASCAR.com

Jeff Gordon showed speed at New Hampshire and even led five laps, but came up short when the checkered dropped. (Autostock)

The fact Jeff Gordon still has yet to win a race this season has many scratching their heads -- it just doesn't make sense. Bad luck plagued the team early in the season, but with four top-six finishes in the past five races, Gordon has shown this team has what it takes to win, it just hasn't.

Will Gordon win a race before the Chase?

YES NO

Another week, another race with the No. 24 car in contention. It's been that way for a few months now, ever since Jeff Gordon finally put his season-opening plague of bad luck behind him and started running like everyone thought he was capable of. Sunday at New Hampshire was the past eight races in microcosm -- Gordon right in there, a factor until the checkers, and then left to watch someone else celebrate in Victory Lane.

At some point, he's going to finish the job. The odds and the performance just demand it. Even earlier in the year, when it was breaking a different part every week, the No. 24 car was still fast. Now, it's almost always among the leaders -- Gordon's average finish the past eight races is 9.25 -- and it's completely logical to think that at some point, that team is going to put everything together and win.

Yes, with the Chase opener just seven races away, Gordon is running out of time. But he also has very favorable tracks like Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Atlanta yet to come. He should have won at Indy last year. He's the circuit's all-time leader in road-course victories. He scored career triumph No. 85 at Atlanta a season ago. He's running consistently well. Are you really prepared to discount him?

No question, he's still way down there in the standings. But one victory puts Gordon within reach of that second (and after Kasey Kahne's victory Sunday, lone remaining) wild-card position, and he knows it. Dismiss the four-time champion at your own risk.

David Caraviello, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

My dad has been a Jeff Gordon fan since his debut in 1992, so for the sake of my dad's happiness, I wish nothing but the best for the four-time Cup champ. But it's time for reality to set in -- 2012 just isn't Gordon's year.

It's not that Gordon has been horrible -- far from it, in fact. Gordon has consistently been one of the top-10 cars on the track each week; rarely has Gordon been mid-pack or worse and never really a factor. But for some reason, he just can't get over the hump. Most of it has been bad luck, especially early in the season, but his finishes recently define the No. 24's season a little more clearly -- close, but not quite.

Sure, Gordon has been "good" recently, but one top-five in his past 12 starts doesn't show "dominance." There have only been two races this season Gordon has led more than 20 laps and the bottom line is, until Gordon shows he can run up front and lead for a considerable chunk of the race, there is no reason to think this team is ready to break through.

David mentions upcoming opportunities at certain tracks like Watkins Glen and Indy. Gordon hasn't won at Watkins Glen since 2001 and has a best finish of ninth since that victory. At Indy, shoulda-woulda-coulda. The truth is Gordon didn't win, and hasn't been to Victory Lane at the Brickyard since Twilight was just a book (2004 for you non Twi-hards).

Gordon is a perennial winner, but some seasons are just harder than they should be. With seven races remaining, the clock is about to strike midnight for the No. 24.

Bill Kimm, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

With just seven races until the Chase, it's now or never for Gordon. He more than likely needs two victories to get into the Chase, but before he gets two, he has to get that first one. Will Jeff Gordon get his first victory of the season before the Chase? David Caraviello says without question while Bill Kimm isn't so sure. Read their arguments and then weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.