On Sunday in Fontana, everything was going well for the first 100 or so laps. Jeff Gordon had the fastest car on the track, having worked all the way up to fifth place after starting 21st.
And then the rain came. Having passed the halfway point, the race was called, and Tony Stewart unceremoniously took the win. Jeff Gordon had fallen behind, and with the rain-shortened race, he had no chance to make up ground. This was just the most recent incident in a string of bad luck the driver has faced this season.
Gordon got off to a bad start, nearly winning the Budweiser Shootout before getting involved in a multi-car wreck. With just two laps to go, the #24 car flipped, somersaulted and skidded across the track upside-down. Luckily, Jeff was okay, but he dropped from third place to finish 15th. Kyle Busch won the race.
Jeff lasted longer in the Shootout than in the season’s opener in Daytona, which was pushed back to Monday evening due to rain on Sunday. Number 24’s engine failed, ending Gordon’s night on lap 81 of 200. Later, Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer, causing a fiery explosion and a two hour delay. In the early hours Tuesday morning, Matt Kenseth was declared the winner.
The next two races went better for the four-time champion. Gordon finished 8th in Phoenix and 12th in Las Vegas. But the following week at Bristol, things started to look bad again. Jeff ran in the top 5 for most of the race. With about a quarter of the race left, Dale Earnhardt Jr. bumped Gordon, his tailpipe cutting Gordon’s rear tire. Gordon wrecked, ending the race 35th. Brad Keselowski took the win.
Last Sunday in Fontana, Gordon again had one of the fastest cars in the race, but was again subject to bad luck. He had moved up to 5th and was looking good through the first half of the race. With rain threatening, the drivers were careful, producing no cautions. There were a few issues on pit road, however. On lap 107, Gordon accidentally dragged a crew member and gas can out of the pit box, giving him a stop-and-go penalty which dropped him a lap behind. Shortly afterward, a tire got away from the pit crew, pushing Gordon farther back. The race was called for rain not long after that. Without the opportunity to make up ground, he finished in 26th place.
After 5 races, Jeff Gordon is 25th in the Sprint Cup standings, with 104 points and 91 back from the leader, Greg Biffle. This is the lowest he’s been in the standings at this point in the season in his entire career. But good news may be on the horizon. Next up is Martinsville, the shortest track in the Sprint Cup series at just over a half mile. Gordon historically has done very well on short tracks. His best average finish is on short tracks (11.2). He has finished in the top 5 in 15 of his last 20 races at Martinsville (dating back to 2002), including 4 wins in that period.
Even better news: the skies above Martinsville in Ridgeway,VA, are expected to be mostly sunny on Sunday. If the weather cooperates and his car can stay on the track, Jeff has a chance to turn his luck around.