The Inside Line: String of bad luck continues for Gordon
By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 200th win in NASCAR's premier series, Jeff Gordon is wondering what else can go wrong with his team this season.
Gordon has had a competitive car during the season, but the four-time series champion has experienced one misfortune after another in the first 11 point races this year.
His latest ordeal occurred this past Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, where he suffered two flat tires that occurred within 20 laps of each other. He sustained damage to the left-rear panel of his car after the second cut tire, which put him behind the wall for 28 laps while his crew made repairs.
Gordon is a seven-time race winner at Darlington, but this time, he finished 35th there.
"Bad luck is when you run over something that no one else can find and you cut a tire, and we did that twice tonight," a disappointed Gordon said after the race, which was won by his Hendrick teammate, Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon's season has literally been turned upside down since the beginning when he was involved in a horrifying wreck during the Budweiser Shootout (non-points race) on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway. Gordon got the worst of an eight-car crash which happened on the backstretch. His car flipped around as he hit the wall and then slid several hundred feet before it moved side over side multiple times and came to a rest on its roof.
His misery continued the following week when he finished 40th in the Daytona 500 after suffering engine failure in the early going. He crashed at Bristol, which earned him a 35th-place result. A late-race penalty for an equipment violation on pit road put him out of winning contention at California, as he finished 26th there.
To make matters worse, Gordon has finished no better than 21st in the last four races.
"It's the same old story," he said. "We're running good, and we have fast race cars. We're doing everything we can as a team and just having things like that happen to us. I don't think there is a lot of cheerleading that needs to happen right now. I think we just need to get as prepared as we can for the next race and go out there and try to perform well."
Right now, Gordon sits 24th in the point standings. Gordon's worst finish in points is 14th, which came in his 1993 rookie season. He is now in his 20th year as driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick.
"We've had a rough year," he said. "We need to start getting wins, because our only chance of getting in the top-10 or getting the wild card is wins. And I think it's going to take two or three. So the way our season is going, we'll take everything we can get. A win right now would be unbelievable for us."
With 15 races remaining before the Chase for Sprint Cup championship begins in September, Gordon is 96 points behind 10th-place Carl Edwards. That's a lot of ground to cover, so it's looking more and more like Gordon's best chances of qualifying for this year's Chase would be races won ... the more the merrier.
However, Gordon would have to be in the top 20 in points after the regular season concludes Sept. 8 at to be at least eligible for one of the two wild card positions in the Chase. He's currently 22 points behind 20th-place Jamie McMurray.
"I don't think there's too many questions about that fact that we're shooting for a wild card," Gordon said. "We're pretty far away from the top 10. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I think that the nice thing about that is we just go do what we always try to do, which is win races. And that's what we're doing every weekend, as we get closer and closer to when the Chase starts."
Eighty-five of Rick Hendrick's 200 wins have come from Gordon. Three of those wins came last year, his first season with crew chief Alan Gustafson. Gordon's most recent victory was September at Atlanta (22 races ago).
"He's got to win," Hendrick said. "As good as he runs, as good as that car has been this year at different places, we can do it. It's an uphill battle, but I am confident Jeff will put everything he's got in it, and we'll win some races with him."
05/14 16:29:00 ET