The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Jeff Gordon by S.D. Grady -- Monday December 9, 2013

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Jeff Gordon

S.D. Grady · Monday December 9, 2013


2013 Ride(s): No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Jeff Gordon

2013 Primary Sponsor(s): Drive to End Hunger (22 races), Axalta Coating Systems (14 races), Pepsi (2 races)

2013 Owner(s): Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon
2013 Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
2013 Final Points Standings: 6th

Stats: 36 races, 1 win, 8 Top 5’s, 17 Top 10’s, 2 Poles (Richmond/Charlotte Fall race), 12.9 Avg Start, 14.4 Avg Finish, 5 DNFs, led 434 laps

Best Finish: 1st – Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville (7th Chase Race).

Experience and mastery over machine meant Gordon took care of his tires and passed Matt Kenseth with only 20 laps to go. He took home his eighth clock, tying Jimmie Johnson for drivers with most wins at the paperclip.

2013 Team Ranking: 3rd out of 4.

High Point: It is uncertain whether the inclusion of the No. 24 in the Chase after the controversy-laden finish to the Richmond race can ultimately be considered a good thing, but it certainly gave Gordon’s team the impetus needed to finally find their 2013 stride. All good things came to pass for Gordon’s team after NASCAR decided too many other cars were not entirely honest in their pursuit of a berth in the Chase.

They logged an Average Finish of 11.3 during the Chase, taking home both one more pole at Charlotte and the singular Martinsville win—which set Gordon up with a career total of 88 victories. They led 7 out of 10 races during the playoffs, compared to leading a measly 9 races during the regular season. In short, after a year of struggling with too many visits to the wall, Jeff Gordon completed the year looking much like the Sprint Cup Champion that he is.

Low Point: Just in case Gordon thought he might actually have a shot at snaring his fifth cup after winning at Martinsville, Texas Motor Speedway reached out and slammed the No. 24 Chevy into the wall just 73 laps into the eighth Chase race. The Drive to End Hunger crew managed to get his car back on the track, avoiding another mark to his already depressingly-high five DNF’s for the year, but the damage was done. Any thought of a Cinderella season was over.

Summary: In 2013, Jeff Gordon continued to demonstrate he is still a competitive veteran of the Sprint Cup Series and future Hall of Fame member by logging his 20th full season, 700th consecutive start, 88th victory and 74th pole this season. Incidentally, all of these stellar achievements have been done so with the same team.

However, that is not to say it’s all been roses this year. The No. 24 team suffered 5 DNF’s, four of them due to crashes—the kind that make you worry about the health of the driver. Still, week after week he reported to work. As one of the elder statesmen of the garage, rumors continue to abound regarding Gordon’s future, wondering just how much longer he’ll stay behind the wheel. The 42 year old appears ready to stay with his team until the reigns are handed over to Chase Elliot sometime this decade, but that remains to be speculation as nobody wants to count their chickens just yet.

While Gordon never looked like that young kid who won three Cups in just four years this past year, he spent enough time at the front of the pack to keep his longtime fans hoping for better times to come.

2014 Outlook: Jeff Gordon is signed up for yet one more year, possibly more, with Hendrick Motorsports. Alan Gustafson will return as his crew chief and all the major sponsors are signed on for at least one more season. Axalta is contracted through 2016. We should expect more of the same from the No. 24 team next year. In other words, probably a win or two, a couples poles, regular appearances in the Top 10 and likely another trip to the Chase. But don’t get your hopes too high if you think he’ll finally earn the moniker 5-time.

2013 Grade: A.

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Sherri T
12/09/2013 02:13 PM

My hope continues (sometimes against all odds)

S.D. Grady
12/09/2013 02:43 PM

Sherri…mine does, too.