Jeff Gordon: 5 Reasons for the Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ's Struggles

Hugo Olguin@@RealHugoOlguinContributor IIIApril 4, 2012

Jeff Gordon: 5 Reasons for the Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ's Struggles

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    Jeff Gordon went into the 2012 season expecting to build on a great 2011 season.  

    His career seemed restarted with new crew chief Alan Gustafson joining forces with Gordon to win three races.

    But 2012 has not been too kind.  Gordon has struggled a lot to start off the season and currently sits 21st in points, a position that I did not expect to see Gordon anywhere near.

    Here are five reasons why Jeff Gordon has struggled and what fans should expect for the rest of 2012.

5. Pit Road Mistakes

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    In Fontana, Jeff Gordon was penalized twice for mistakes made by his pit crew.

    Gordon was penalized on Lap 107 for leaving the pit stall with the fuel can (and gas man) attached to his car.  Gordon then had to take a trip back down pit road for a stop-and-go penalty, which put him a lap down.

    Then on a pit stop during a late-race caution, the crew let a tire get away from them, earning another penalty for Gordon.  This time he had to start at the back of the pack.

    Those penalties ruined any hopes for Gordon to have a good run.  He was relegated to finish 26th.  

    These mistakes can't happen.  With how tight points are, these mistakes are killing any hopes Gordon has in a championship run.

4. Missing the Set-Up for a Track

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    One issue Gordon and Alan Gustafson had at times during the 2011 season was missing the set-up for a track and not being able to recover from it.

    Las Vegas showed that Gordon and Gustafson still have some work to do.

    Gordon fought an ill-handling race car all race long.  He started in the top 15 but the handling in the car just went way.  He fell all the way to 26th and had to work his way back up from there.

    Gordon was able to bring it back up to a 12th-place finish, but these races where the handling goes away and doesn't come back can't happen.

    It burned Gordon for many races last season and it looks like it might burn him again this season unless Gordon and Gustafson can get a better understanding of their set-ups.

3. Mechanical Issues

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    Gordon started out the 2012 season in a rough way at Daytona.

    Besides flipping for the first time during the Bud Shootout, Gordon had a strong car for the Daytona 500.

    It was a shame when his motor blew before Gordon could make a significant impact on the race.  To start off the season with a 40th-place finish puts this team in a hole that will take a while to dig out of.

    While it is rare for a motor to go for a Hendrick car, it happens, and Jeff Gordon doesn't need to have it happen to him again.

2. Getting Caught Up in Wrecks

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    This early in the season, every crash and every bad finish hurts.

    The Bristol crash was a big blow to Gordon.  He was running well and was on pace for a good finish before disaster struck.

    While battling teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., they made contact and Junior's tail pipes cut Gordon's tire, sending the No. 24 car into the wall and resulting in a 35th-place finish.

    While that was bad, it had to feel worse when Gordon was taken out in a crash while leading this past Sunday in Martinsville during a green-white-checkered finish.  

    Gordon dominated Martinsville, leading for over 300 laps and finished 14th after the crash.  Having a win taken away so close to the finish is tough for a driver to handle.

1. That's It. Jeff Gordon's Season Will Turn Around

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    If we've learned anything from last season, it's that it is a long season and there is time to turn a season around and make a run during the chase. Ask Tony Stewart.

    The same goes for Jeff Gordon.  Look at his stats from last season.  With the exception of the win at Phoenix, Gordon started the 2011 season in a rough way too.  

    He made it all the way up to the top five in points by the time the chase started. 

    Gordon is one of the best drivers out there for a reason.  He knows how to get the job done when it really counts.  

    The No. 24 car will turn things around.  I would be more worried if he wasn't competitive at all.  But after leading over 300 laps in Martinsville in dominating fashion, I'm not worried.

    Don't count out Jeff Gordon yet.