It's Now or Never: Jeff Gordon Aims For a Summer Swing With Wins
While the win column reads zero for four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon in 2010, his season has been one that could be labeled as a renaissance in stock car parlance.
Sitting fourth in the point standings, the No. 24 DuPont Chevy has truly returned to the front of the pack, with the FireStorm colors reaffirming its spot in leading a vast majority of the races' laps and in position for victories.
Although those opportunities to enter Victory Lane slip away toward the end of some races, the performances for the Steve Letarte-led team show signs of encouragement and hope for the perennially successful unit.
There's been those late race snafus, such as in Martinsville, when Gordon let temper get the best of him with rival Matt Kenseth, and at Phoenix, when he messed up on driver protocol and had a terrible restart that led to a Ryan Newman victory.
However, there's also reason to believe that the racing gods may acknowledge that Gordon's team has truly earned its dues this season, translating into a summer of triumphs much like Tony Stewart or Jimmie Johnson, who truly turn up their performances when the mercury reaches its extreme points.
As the circuit heads to Pocono, a track that Gordon has won at in four previous occasions (1996-'98 and 2007), it may be the right time for the long-time Hendrick Motorsports collective to step it up to the next level and, as Larry the Cable Guy often says, "get 'er done."
"This is a fun and challenging track for the drivers, the engineers, and the teams," Gordon said per his press release from Performance PR. "It has three very unique and challenging corners, and I think this is is what makes Pocono so special."
It's played host to some of the future NASCAR Hall of Fame entrant's memorable moments in his career, such as his dominant victories at the triangular speedway in the late 1990s and the poker-like gamble win in '07, in which the Vallejo, Calif. native stole the race courtesy of a brilliant call by crew chief Steve Letarte.
Then there are the low moments, such as the late race restart gaffe in 1995, when Gordon missed a shift and relegated from a potential win to a disappointing 16th-place finish, as well as the violent first corner crash in 2006 that visibly and physically shook up the normally cool mannered driver.
That said, Pocono is traditionally one of "Four-Time's" best tracks, garnering those four wins, two poles, 16 top-fives, and 24 top-10 results in his 34 previous starts. Last season's races treated Gordon fairly well, placing fourth in the June event and eighth just two months later.
With his pit crew busting out some brilliant stops all season long, recently placing themselves in a three way tie for first in the Tissot Pit Road Award following the Coca-Cola 600, the "Rainbow Warriors" may be the difference maker down the summer stretch for NASCAR's aging "Wonderboy."
While the No. 24 Chevy was a bit off last Sunday night at Charlotte, the crew fought all race long to get Gordon's machine handling and in position for the win.
Though in vain, the team's decision to stay out late in the Sprint Cup series' longest race resulted in a salvageable sixth-place spot, a mini victory for the group that defined what "Refusing to Lose" is all about.
Now it's somewhat shut up or go time for the DuPont group, who look to grab some victories for pivotal bonus points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin lead the league in wins with three a piece, greatly padding their advantage over the likes of Gordon, who may be consistent but has yet to snap his winless streak that dates back to Apr. 4, 2009.
Sure, the talk of the town may be the Busch brothers, who have truly found their niche with wins, as well as the struggles of Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe's team, which has been somewhat uncharacteristically off in the past month and a half.
Just don't be surprised if some of that talk includes an aging 38-year-old Californian and Indianan hero who might reel off yet another summer of wins by the bunches. If there's anything that Gordon and the No. 24 team has taught anyone following NASCAR, it's that they're about the most dynamic team in the past 20 years.