5 Ways How Jeff Gordon Can Return to Dominance in 2013

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

5 Ways How Jeff Gordon Can Return to Dominance in 2013

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    Jeff Gordon is one of the top drivers in NASCAR.

    Yet, he hasn't been as good over the last several years as he once was. Last season was rough for the 24 team, but they managed to win the last race of the season and now have some momentum as they get ready for the 2013 season.

    Gordon still has some work to do if he hopes to return to dominance in 2013.

    He has managed to win several races over the last two seasons, but Gordon is a top driver who seems to fall apart in The Chase.

    Last season alone, Gordon barely made it in.

    Once he made The Chase, he did nothing. After looking strong toward the end of the regular season, the 24 team fell apart, besides when they managed to pull off the win at Homestead.

    Gordon has shown some signs of his once-dominating driving ability, but if he hopes to return to his championship form, he and the 24 team need to improve next season.

    Here are five ways how Jeff Gordon can return to dominance in 2013.

5. Improvement from the 24 Team

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    If Jeff Gordon needs to step up to return to dominance in 2013, then so does the 24 team.

    From the pit crew to Alan Gustafson, everyone will need to step up and deliver on a higher level if Gordon is ever going to be as dominate like he was years ago.

    Gordon has slightly improved under his new crew chief over the last two years but nothing close to how good he ran back in 2007 and the years where he won the championship.

    Gustafson and Gordon haven't really clicked yet. Back in 2009, Alan and Mark Martin paired up, and Martin ended the season with five wins.

    Clearly, Gustafson is a solid crew chief, but for whatever reason, the pair has struggled over the last two seasons, specifically last year. They did manage to win a handful of races, but Gordon almost missed The Chase last year, and when he did make it in, he failed to do anything.

    Of course bad luck will derail a driver and can ruin their season, but Gordon and Gustafson have yet to work together to really overcome it. Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team, for example, overcame bad luck at Kansas in The Chase last season to remain in the hunt for the title.

    Gordon and the 24 team still need to work to attain the level of perseverance that Johnson and the 48 team have.

    The pit crew for the 24 team needs to improve, as well. They are already some of the best in the sport, but they need to continue to be flawless and strive to be faster.

    If Gordon is going to return to dominance, it needs to start with how well the 24 team can improve overall moving into 2013.

4. Deal with Bad Luck and Improve on Inconsistency

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    Bad luck and inconsistency have been two huge problems for Jeff Gordon and the 24 team. Last season alone, Gordon seemed to run into bad luck week after week.

    The 24 team barely managed to overcome it.

    It was hard to see Gordon fighting last season to just barely make The Chase. After all, Gordon has been one of the best drivers to enter NASCAR over the last two decades, and to see him almost miss The Chase in 2012 made Gordon look like he might slide down as one of the top drivers.

    Bad luck happens, but next season Gordon and the 24 team need to handle it much better. They need to overcome bad situations and focus on turning them around next week.

    They were able to show glimpses of this at the end of 2012, when Gordon went from one week wrecking Clint Bowyer and being handed a $100,000 fine, to winning the race at Homestead.

    Along with handling bad luck, Gordon is going to need to be more consistent. If he has one bad week, he can’t continue to struggle and hope to make The Chase. 

    He needs to be more consistent, and when he and the 24 team seem to be together and look like they are clicking on all cylinders, they need to continue performing at a high level and focus on consistent finishes.

    Placing in the top five one week and then falling back into the bottom 20 the following week is a problem the 24 team needs to fix if Gordon is going to return to dominance next season.

3. Start the 2013 Season off Hot

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    Gordon and the 24 team managed to walk away from 2012 with the last victory of the season. They need to keep that momentum going as they start up the 2013 season.

    If Gordon manages to start off the season hot and win a couple of races, he can place himself in the right position, points wise. He won't have to play catch-up, like he needed to do last year.

    Winning a couple of races early on in the season would also give the 24 team confidence heading into the rest of the year.

    It was a big problem for Gordon and the 24 team last year when they seemingly ran into bad luck over and over again. They were never able to recover, and it reflected throughout their entire season.

    He clearly started off last season the wrong way.

    In 2013, Gordon and the 24 team need to carry their momentum from last season and try to win at Daytona.

    Starting off the season hot would give Gordon room to make mistakes. Tony Stewart for example, started off last season with a couple of wins and was able to make it into The Chase, regardless of how poor he started to do toward the end of the regular season.

    Gordon needs to start 2013 with a bang, and show everyone that he is still one of the most dominant drivers in NASCAR.

2. Learn from Last Year

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    Last season was a major step backwards in more than one way for Jeff Gordon. 

    After his incident with Clint Bowyer at Phoenix, Gordon looked like a driver who was clearly frustrated with a bad year.

    It goes beyond a bad season though. Gordon let his anger get the best of him, and intentionally took out Bowyer, who was still in the championship.

    Gordon was always a driver who raced hard, but could anyone imagine the four-time champion letting his anger make him send Bowyer front-first into the wall?

    Then, the ensuing fight afterwards might have been one of the more exciting moments in NASCAR in 2012, but Gordon needs to learn from the mistakes he made last year.

    He let his anger get the best of him and is extremely lucky he didn't hurt someone. 

    For what reason did he feel the need to dump Bowyer? Bowyer raced him hard at Phoenix, but Gordon felt that the 15 car had been racing him hard all year.

    In actuality, Bowyer had only raced Gordon really hard at Martinsville, and it caused the 24 to spin out.

    Gordon let his poor season get the best of him, and he let his anger get out of control at Phoenix. If he is ever going to return to dominance, he needs to learn from last season.

    He needs to let his driving send a message, instead of putting someone in the wall to prove a point.

1. Start Wining in the Chase

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    Gordon making it into The Chase and even having a great regular season in 2013 would be a step toward dominance.

    But, it wouldn't be enough.

    It's not enough for Gordon to make it into The Chase at this point in his career. He seemingly makes it in every year, and even after having one of his worst seasons last year, he still managed to make it into The Chase.

    The problem though, is Gordon seems to drop off of the radar once The Chase beings.

    After mounting a major comeback during the last race of the regular season, Gordon passed Kyle Busch and made it into The Chase.

    It was a huge comeback to say the least, as Gordon went from a lap down to second place by the time the race was over. Gordon looked like he was going into The Chase strong and looked like he was going to turn around his bad luck that he had been dealing with all season.

    Instead, Gordon entered The Chase and did almost nothing.

    Even at the tracks where he has had success, Gordon struggled and slipped down The Chase standings.

    He can learn from last year, handle his bad luck and even make The Chase, but if Gordon is going to return to dominance in 2013, he's going to need to look like a championship contender next season.