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It’s Early But It’s Also Go Time For Jeff Gordon

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 27 2012

Jeff Gordon's season got off to a tragic start when he wrecked in the Bud Shootout during Speedweeks. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

CONCORD, N.C. – Unless something miraculous happens, the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship will come and go without Jeff Gordon. And NASCAR has banned miracles.

Perhaps the reality has set in, perhaps Gordon is an Olivier-caliber actor or perhaps he has new golf clubs and is looking forward to using them.  It could even be medicine for the cold he has. Whatever. The four-time champ just seems unfazed by his beyond-desperate situation.

Thursday, as he spoke to the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway – site of today’s Coca-Cola 600 – Gordon was asked about the flat-line attitude which he has been maintaining as his racing world crumbles around him.

“What are you going to do other than just keep your head up and work hard and go to the next race and try to change it?” Gordon said with a semi, kind of, sort-of, smile.

A big part of Gordon’s attitude, of course, has to be rooted in the knowledge that the main problem with the season – he is 35th in points and has just one top-five finish in 11 starts – is not traceable to the driver. The problem has been ill circumstance. Wrecks and mechanical failures.

“We’ve got too good of a team and too good of race cars to try to get down on the way things have been

Jeff Gordon not having a Jeff Gordon-like season. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

going,” Gordon said. “It’s tough. It’s challenging because every one of those races where you get out of the car and you see the dejection on the team’s face. You know what you’re going through and they feel it from you as well.”

Listening to all this is Greg Biffle, the guy who will be the Sprint Cup points leader when the 600 starts late this afternoon.

Biffle understands all about ill circumstance and what it can do to a racing season. His understanding is first-person.

“I can tell you that you could get Jeff Gordon in here to sit beside me for a little bit as long as he doesn’t get too close. It’s like he’s got a cold right now and I don’t want to get sick,” Biffle said. “I tell you what, Jeff Gordon’s season was exactly the season we had last year. That was the 16 team’s season to a T. It was just one thing after another – not the same thing, one thing after another happened to us, and that’s what has happened to Jeff. Jeff in a racing deal, cut a left-rear tire at Bristol, racing deal where this happened or that happened, engine problem. What’s next?

“It’s really the season we had last year and it’s the season he’s having right now and I look at that and know that we were sitting right there and now we’re not. It’s not any one thing, it’s a combination of things. It’s circumstances, it’s a lot of things involved, but I’m sure happy I’m on this side of it and not that side.”

Gordon has won the 600 before. Three times, in fact. Yes, he obviously knows how to do well in NASCAR’s longest race. It’s just that he may not remember how as he has not done it since 1998.

He certainly knows and remembers this: “It’s a challenging race on its own and then you throw in the heat and humidity in there; plus how long this race is and it definitely going to make for some big challenges. There is still a little bit of daylight out when this race starts, which can beat that race track up and makes for even more challenges on how to start the race out and how you’re going to balance it out as the temps go down and night comes and the track changes.”

And he knows he’d better meet the challenges today.

“The timing gets tougher and tougher all the time and the more races that go by that we don’t get the results, the harder and harder that mountain is to climb,” Gordon said. “But we’re just relying on our team and keeping the communication open and stay positive with all the guys and just say hey, this is our week; this is our week. And you can only do that for so long, but we’re still doing it. So, hopefully we’ll see the results.

“I’m excited about this weekend. I feel like we really learned a lot at that All-Star race. Obviously the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) dominated and they were really strong, so we could learn something from that as well. But we learned a lot as a team on what we can do to be really, really good this weekend.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 27 2012
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