To say the least, it has been a very frustrating season for Jeff Gordon. 14 races into the season, Gordon only has four top-10’s, and an average finish of 16.3. Perhaps the stat that concerns Gordon the most, however, are the three DNF’s. These stats are very uncharacteristic for a Hendrick Motorsports car, and for Gordon himself. Surprisingly, even with all of the adversity the team has faced, they were 11th in points coming into the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The Alan Gustafson led team had high hopes this weekend. Sunday morning in the garage area Gustafson confirmed to me that, “..they have a good piece.” The team had a respectable 12th place finish at Pocono just a week ago, a track where most feel is a good indicator of how a team can perform at Michigan. Gordon also has an impressive record at the two mile oval. In forty career starts, Gordon has two wins and 25 top-10’s. Gordon also finished sixth in this race last year.
All of those hopes came to a quick and abrupt end however. After only five laps, the #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet driven by Bobby Labonte, spun off turn two collecting Gordon. When asked about the incident Gordon replied, “Bobby Labonte just lost it over there in Turn 2. He just did one of those slow spins where I couldn’t tell which direction he was going to go, so I had to guess and I guessed wrong way. I didn’t really have anywhere to go.” Gordon did manage to return to the track and complete a few more laps but was way off the pace.
Gordon has seemingly has bad luck every time they have a good car. Gordon pointed out, “It seems like we can run all day long when we can’t get the car right but when we finally get the car right, something like this happens.”
As far as Sunday’s incident, Gordon attributed it to the team’s struggles in qualifying saying, “We started back there and we were moving forward which I’m proud of, but the fact that we were back there. I put as much blame on myself. I really struggled in this weekend when we went into qualifying trim. I’ve struggled all year. Shoot, the last two years with qualifying and I don’t know what it is, but we have to get it better.”
Gordon and his team will try to re-group and recover some points next week at the road course in Sonoma California, a track where Gordon has five wins and a very strong 16 top-10’s in just 20 starts.