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Woody: Where Is The ‘Go’ In Gordon?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 3 2010

Getting wins is no longer quick and easy for Jeff Gordon. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

If Jeff Gordon never wins another race he is firmly entrenched among the greatest stock car racers ever to wriggle into a cockpit.

But that’s small consolation to the four-time NASCAR champion as he struggles through the longest losing streak of his career. His 6th-place finish at Pocono last Sunday extended his winless streak to 50 races and it came in painfully-familiar fashion: he lost the lead on a late caution and couldn’t get it back.

Another good run, another loss.

It took Gordon just 42 starts to notch his first win on May 29, 1994 at Charlotte. Since then he has won 81 more times.

His 82 victories rank sixth in the record book, one behind Cale Yarborough and two behind Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison who are tied for third with 84 each.

Just three more wins will boost Gordon to third place, trailing only legends Richard Petty and David Pearson.

But wins which once came so quick and easy (33 in the 1996-97-98 seasons) have been increasingly hard to come by for Gordon. He won one race last year and none the year before. He is winless through 21 starts this year. He has come close, but close doesn’t count in this what-have-you-done-lately sport.

Jeff turns 40 this week, but in stock car racing 40 is the old 30. Harry Gant won a race when he was 52, and as he said at the time, “That race car doesn’t know how old I am.”

There’s a theory that fatherhood has caused Gordon to ease up on the throttle but I don’t buy it. He’s been racing as hard this season as he’s ever raced. So hard, in fact, that he’s been criticized for running over competitors in some wild late-race battles.

I don’t think he’s too old or too mellow and I don’t believe he’s lost his competitive desire.

He’s not motivated by money – he has more than he can ever spend. And as we said, he could park his car today and be secure among the sport’s elite.

But that’s not enough, not when he has a chance to climb even higher, to be mentioned in the same breath as Petty and Pearson. That’s rarified company and Gordon would like to be part of it.

But to get there he has to start winning, and that’s not as easy as it once was.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 3 2010
One Comment

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  • Joe says:

    Either Gordon turns 39 this week or I don’t know how old I am because we were both born in 1971 and I don’t think I’m 40.