Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR. All Graphics designed by Toby Christie/Sicknissified.com.
*Editor’s note: This is the third installment, of a 12 article series where we will be previewing the 2013 season for the drivers who made the Chase last season.
By: Toby Christie – Follow on Twitter @Tobalical
The thing many will remember forever about Jeff Gordon’s 2012 season are the multiple run-ins with Clint Bowyer that eventually ended up in a brawl in Phoenix. However had it not been for those moments overshadowing the year, everyone would be remembering Gordon’s feverish turnaround from mediocrity to make the Chase For The Sprint Cup.
Gordon started the season on his roof (for the first time ever) in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, and it appeared early in the year as though that would be an omen of things to come for the four time champion in 2012.
A blown motor in the Daytona 500 coupled with 35th place finishes at Bristol and Darlington and a crash at Talladega left Gordon mired back in 24th in the point standings heading into the all-star break.
His bright spot in the season to this point was Martinsville where he led 329 laps, only to be spun out after contact with Clint Bowyer. Gordon would finish 14th that day, and an opportunity was lost. Gordon from here though would begin to scratch and claw his way slowly up the rankings. By midseason however, he was still in no man’s land back in 17th in the point standings.
Over the final eight races leading up to the Chase Gordon would reel off five top-five finishes, including a victory at Pocono. A second place finish at Richmond was enough to push him into the Chase Wildcard slot, when Kyle Busch faltered when it counted the most.
Gordon had a second-wind, a fresh shot at greatness. He even began to re-grow his classic 1992 mustache — Unfortunately though at Chicago (the first Chase race) Gordon cut a tire and slammed the wall hard. He finished 35th, and was never able to recover. He would finish the season 10th in the point standings, but from where he came that was one heck of a rebound.
The No. 24 team will have momentum on their side heading into this season, as they won the final race of 2012, but it is imperative that Gordon (41 years old) and crew chief Alan Gustafson get off to a quicker start in 2013. Expect Jeff Gordon to once again compete for a Chase berth.
Starts: 36, Wins: 2, Top5: 11, Top10: 18, Poles: 2, Laps Led: 568, Average Start: 12.9, Average Finish: 14.1, DNF: 5
Starts: 689, Wins: 87, Top5: 298, Top10: 414, Poles: 72, Laps Led: 23,147, Average Start: 10.3, Average Finish: 12.4, DNF: 93