2007 Ride: No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2007 Primary Sponsor: DuPont Automotive Finishes
2007 Owner: Rick Hendrick
2007 Crew Chief: Steve Letarte
2007 Stats: Six wins, 21 top-five finishes, 30 top-10 finishes, seven poles.
High Point: It’s hard to pick just one high point in a season where you win six races, lead the points standings for 21 straight weeks and 26 overall, and set a modern-era record for top-10 finishes. Oh, and welcomed your first child into the world on the side. Jeff Gordon put up remarkable numbers all year. He averaged a fifth-place finish in the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup.
And he finished second in points.
Gordon showed remarkable consistency all year, winning in the now-outdated “old” car, winning in the Car of Tomorrow, and showing exactly why he’s been at the top of the Cup game for more than a decade. That he came up just 77 points shy of his fifth Cup championship does not detract from what should be remembered as one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory.
Low Point: Gordon put up remarkable numbers all year. He averaged a fifth-place finish in the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup.
And he finished second in points.
Gordon must rue the day that the Chase for the Nextel Cup was conceived. The format has almost certainly cost him two points championships. Had the Chase not been invented, Gordon would have clinched this year’s title at Phoenix and won it by a very handy 353 points. Instead, Gordon tasted the champagne only as a car owner-he co-owns the No. 48 and hand-picked driver Jimmie Johnson, left to wonder what might have been.
Summary: Gordon got the short end of another championship battle thanks to the points system, but he certainly doesn’t need to hang his head in shame. He opened the season with a 10th-place finish at Daytona and would fare worse than that only six times all season long. He broke into the win column seven races later, at Phoenix, tying Dale Earnhardt‘s career win total and paying tribute to his friend and rival by carrying a black No. 3 flag on his cool-down lap. He passed Earnhardt one week later at Talladega. In the first 10 races, Gordon also sat on the pole six times.
Gordon won Darlington and Pocono heading into the summer season, in between he posted the only DNF of the season with a 41st-place finish at Charlotte following a crash. It was his only finish lower than 27th all year. Gordon carried a commanding lead all the way to Richmond, only to lose it because Johnson carried six wins to his four under the new points reset. He got it back at Dover, carrying it into October with back-to-back wins at Charlotte and Talladega. Then Johnson won the next four, dropping Gordon to second, where he would end the year. A bitter pill perhaps, but at least Gordon can take pride that he is perhaps the best judge of talent in the garage, taking a chance on Johnson when few others gave a second look. Small comfort for what might have been.
2008 Outlook: Don’t look for this team’s performance to drop off anytime soon. Gordon and Letarte have great chemistry and great equipment to drive. He has the stability of a family in his personal life and is secure in himself in and out of the racecar. No longer the young phenom, Gordon is the wily veteran who can put a good car anywhere and finesse a bad one. Add a team coming off a 1-2 finish in 2007 and one of the longest sponsor-team relationships in the series, and the future looks bright indeed. Good thing Gordon has a sunglasses sponsor.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: B+
2007 Grade: A