Gordon facing possibility of winless season

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - To say Jeff Gordon will end the year without a victory is downright bold right now, but with 11 races remaining in the season, it's becoming more likely the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion could end the year in the winless column for the first time since his rookie season in 1993. His last victory came 31 races ago, in October 2007 at Charlotte.

After winning at Kansas during his 2001 championship season, Gordon went 31 races without a victory until he snapped it in August 2002 at Bristol. It was then his longest such skid since recording his first career win in 1994.

With 25 races now completed in the 2008 season, Gordon has scored just 11 top-10 finishes, with his best performance a second-place run in March at Martinsville, VA. Gordon recorded six victories and finished second to teammate Jimmie Johnson in the championship point standings last year, as Johnson won his second-straight title with a series-leading 10 wins. Gordon is stuck in sixth place on the all-time win list with 81.

Jeff Gordon's last victory
came 31 races ago.
If Gordon does not score a victory in 2008, he would end a 14-year streak of winning at least one race in a season. Richard Petty holds the record for winning in 18 consecutive seasons.

Ten years ago, Gordon was clearly the dominant driver in NASCAR's premier series, as he tied Petty's modern-era record for most victories in a season with 13. But times have changed, with 23-year-old Kyle Busch now at the head of the class with eight victories for the year. Carl Edwards is right up there with six wins, and after a dominating performance in Sunday night's Pepsi 500 at California, Johnson proved to be a serious contender for the title.

While Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. from Hendrick Motorsports have secured their spots in this year's "Chase for the Sprint Cup," Gordon continued to struggle in his bid for the championship as he fell to 10th in the standings after a 15th-place finish at California. He started second but dealt with an ill-handling car throughout the race. Gordon is now 102 points ahead of 13th- place David Ragan heading into Richmond, the final event before the "Chase" begins September 14th at New Hampshire.

"It's not as comfortable as I'd like it to be," Gordon said. "I was hoping to have a little bit better run, but we got everything out of it that we could, and we're pretty much a 15th-place car. I think we are going to be better at Richmond."

If Gordon finishes 24th or better at Richmond, he will qualify for the "Chase," regardless of any other driver's performance. But Gordon will be much happier if he wins at the 3/4-mile short track, where he scored a victory in March 1996 and September 2000.

"We want to perform well and want to win races and be competitive," Gordon said. "I've said before that it doesn't do any good to be in the 'Chase' if you're not competitive enough to win races and battle for the championship. It's about not giving up, fighting and going to the last lap of every race. Obviously we want to be in the 'Chase'."

In a season filled with ups and downs, Gordon might have a late-season surge, especially if he makes the "Chase." It's a turnaround he can accomplish, with the upcoming tracks on the schedule. Gordon has seven victories at Martinsville, six at Talladega, five at Charlotte and four each at Atlanta and Dover.

Whether or not Gordon makes the "Chase" remains to be seen. Either way, his season ending without a victory would be a surprise, but certainly not out of the question.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.
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