Two days before the first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team was added as a 13th competitor in the Chase. It gave Gordon a second chance this season at winning his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
The 42-year-old doesn't have a lot of chances left in his career to be the champion again so this opportunity is something he and his team needed to capitalize on.
However, after two races, Gordon is already 42 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. While Gordon is eighth in points he is only six points from being fourth and with the chances he had at Chicagoland and New Hampshire Motor Speedway Gordon should be at least fourth in points and a lot closer to Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon found himself on a good pit strategy in both races that landed him with the lead. At Chicagoland Gordon suffered a flat tire on a restart when he was on the front row. That dropped him a lap down and he was lucky to have a caution fly before he needed to pit again so that he could rejoin the lead lap. From there Gordon used a strong car to drive through the field and salvage a sixth place finish.
Then at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Sunday Gordon again was in the lead after pit strategy and then issues hit. Gordon inflicted the pain on himself this time. Under a round of green flag stops Gordon entered the pits as the leader and then proceeded to slide his nose of his No. 24 Chevrolet over the front line of his pit box. His crew had to stop their work on changing the right side tires and push him back into the box. Then they resumed work.
The time lost for that issue and the fact that Alan Gustafson, Gordon's crew chief, called for four tires dropped Gordon all the way outside the top 20 with less than 100 laps left. Track position and clean air was huge on Sunday at New Hampshire and Gordon was never nearly as strong late in the race deep in traffic. He only could manage a 15th place finish.
The performance of the car has been there in the first two Chase races for the No. 24 team but they still find themselves in a 42 point hole. Jeff Gordon and the team need to start finishing off their strong runs where they belong to be. And that is in the top five or victory lane.
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