April Fifth, 2009: the economic downturn is in full swing. Roughly 663,000 people have lost their jobs in the weeks prior, raising the unemployment rate to 8.5%. The automobile industry is amidst a crisis and United States President Barack Obama has just announced his plan for worldwide nuclear disarmament.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”229″][/media-credit]Meanwhile, a cowboy-hat adorned Jeff Gordon fires two pistols into the air, celebrating his win in victory lane at Texas Motor Speedway.
If you were to tell a fellow fan that it would be almost two years and 66 races before Gordon would return to victory lane, you would have been laughed at- but such was the case for one of NASCAR’s biggest stars.
Much has changed since that spring afternoon in Fort Worth, where Gordon still had more championships than his teammate Jimmie Johnson.
The 2011 campaign was one of heartbreak, where Gordon finished second eight times and found himself playing second-fiddle to teammate Jimmie Johnson a majority of the time. To return his company to it’s once overall dominance, team owner Rick Hendrick reacted by naming Alan Gustafson the new crew chief for Jeff as part of an organization-wide personnel shuffle- a change that clicked immediately.
Gordon was extremely fast during Daytona Speedweeks, but an accident early in the Daytona 500 forced him to watch the race from the infield with many other drivers who were involved in the accident.
Gordon’s return to victory lane this afternoon in Phoenix was more than just capturing his 83rd career win or having a fast car, but proof that the California native isn’t done yet.
“When we dropped the green flag, I knew I had something special,” said Gordon, who led a total of 138 laps after sustaining left-side damage in an early wreck that took out nearly half the field.
“Every driver knows that they may not get back to victory lane, and I was hoping that wasn’t the case for me,” said the emotional winner, who admitted this afternoon in the media center that he has often questioned whether he still has what it takes to compete at the sport’s highest level.
After a disappointing start for the season last week in Daytona where he finished 28th, Gordon has moved to 5th in the points standings, just 15 markers behind after his win.
After being asked about his outlook on the remainder of the season, Gordon replied saying “I’m so excited about this season, and think we can do it (win) again.”
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