Jeff Gordon's Gamble, Glories, Gaffe, and Gain

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IMarch 1, 2009

The NASCAR race at Las Vegas is known for its highs and lows, wins and losses, as well as triumphs and defeats. Jeff Gordon experienced the full range of gambles, glories, gaffes, and gains from the drop of the green flag, to the final wave of the checkered flag at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Gordon and his No. 24 team gambled mightily as they came to Vegas after the great run in California. Crew chief Steve LeTarte and Gordon decided to take the car that came in second in Fontana and bring it to the Vegas track, rather than bring a fresh car from the shop in Charlotte.

They were able to transport the car from California to a garage borrowed from Nationwide racer Brendan Gaughan. Gordon's Hendrick crew then flew out from North Carolina with the parts to work on the car and prepare it for the race at the Las Vegas track.

Gordon qualified abysmally, starting the race in the 28th position. He did, however, have a fast car in practice, especially in the final practice in which he paced the field with Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Gordon took the green flag in the Shelby 427 race and began to work his way to the front of the field.  On lap 150 of the race, Gordon raced his way to the front, taking the lead.

For Gordon and team Hendrick, not only was this a moment of glory to lead the race, but two other glorious milestones were achieved as well. 

The first achievement was Gordon leading his 20,000th lap to become the seventh driver of all time to record this feat.

The second glory for Gordon was more of a financial milestone. In his 17th season, and at the Las Vegas race, he achieved record winnings of $100,000,000.

Gordon continued to run well in the race and it looked like he had a chance to pull off a coveted first win of the season. But then he made a huge gaffe, sliding past and totally missing pit road.

This major mistake led to a left front flat tire that then destroyed the fender of the car.  Gordon had to limp his way to pit road with his injured vehicle for new tires and some major body work.

Although wounded, the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet came out of the repairs in the pits in the 10th position with about 20 laps to go in the race.

After several other wrecks, with a record number of cautions, including Gordon's teammate Johnson, who wadded up his car with six laps to go, Gordon was able to continue to move forward.

When all was said and done, Gordon finished the race in the sixth position, securing yet another top 10 finish.

But Gordon's biggest gain was in the points standings. With this race finish, Gordon took the points lead and is now in first place, 18 points ahead of second-place Clint Bowyer.

While Gordon did not achieve his goal of ending the race in Victory Lane, he was most certainly able to battle the odds to achieve a good run in Vegas. He gambled, made a goof or two, and achieved some glorious milestones in his racing career.

But Gordon's biggest victory was to gain that precious points lead, leaving Sin City behind him as he heads off to the fastest track in the circuit in snowy Atlanta.