Saturday night's Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400 at the Richmond International Raceway was like any other race, with a winner and 42 losers who chalked it up for three hours of NASCAR action.
There were the typical crashes, double-file packs, pit lane dramas and of course, the late race restarts that played a tremendous hand in determining the night's winner.
Then of course, there was also the typical Jeff Gordon "gets in position for victory and somehow finds an artful way of losing the win" moment, something that's recurred with resonance this season.
While 90 percent of the field wouldn't mind having the kind of races that the DuPont Chevy team has compiled thus far in 2010, victories are seemingly the measure of success for a group that truly redefined NASCAR racing since 1995.
Unlike years past, when No. 24 fans swiftly pointed the blame on crew chief Steve Letarte, the past three occasions in which the DuPont Chevy has been in position was solely up to the fate of Gordon himself. Whether it be human emotion or mental mistakes, the seemingly unflappable champion has shown that he's just like any of us when the going gets tough.
Martinsville was a case where aggression and anger got the best of the 38-year old, who decided to be faithful to a Klingon proverb with Matt Kenseth rather than duel for the checkered flag. Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but perhaps it was one where it cost the typically mild-mannered veteran from reaching Victory Lane.
Then there was Phoenix, which was supposed to be like a bargain or a steal at a high-end department store. Gordon's No. 24 Chevy wasn't exactly the class of the field, but it was a top-four machine that improved via adjustments by the crew with each pit stop.
Instead, it was a frustrating night in which a crafty Ryan Newman cleaned his tires a bit better and shot by the DuPont liveries with relative ease, placing second instead of being adorned by confetti and Gatorade.
Coupled in between Phoenix and the Saturday night shootout at Richmond were the highly chronicled Jimmie Johnson episodes in the races at Texas and Talladega.
Two of NASCAR's most prolific champions clashed it out for the lead in both events, with Gordon's biggest highlight from each race being a verbal barrage about his strained relationship with his friend and teammate. Be it from paint trading for the lead in Texas or the late race antics at Talladega, it was clear how Gordon was hungry yet flustered in snapping his winless streak.
It seemed like Gordon's supposed chance at revenge against his successful "prodigy" would happen at Richmond, where the second row was occupied by the drivers of the No. 48 and 24 cars, respectively. Call it convenient or fitting, but that was the closest that the competitive duo found themselves in during the entire race weekend.
While Johnson salvaged an inconsistent performance with a 10th-place finish, it was Four-Time who continued to excel on race day, racing among the top-five virtually all night long with a solid shot at victory.
Even with Kyle Busch's No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry running on rails, about the only competitor who came close to the Joe Gibbs Racing phenom was a wily veteran who led for 144 circuits. Not bad for a driver who some fans and critics felt was gunshy from even battling with the fast and the furious of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.
Battling with an occasionally ill-handling Chevy Impala, crew chief Letarte kept Gordon poised and confident that the team's adjustments on the DuPont car would work as the track conditions changed. Before, the No. 24 entry seemingly faltered down the stretch, with the team unable to find the right adjustments to make for wins.
All that has changed in the 2010 season, with the No. 24 more than competent and confident enough to dial-in their car as a factor for wins.
Save for Atlanta, where all the Hendrick entries had overly aggressive tire camber set-ups, it's looking like days of yore, when the rainbow colored or flame liveries of the DuPont Chevy lived by its motto of "Refuse to Lose."
Sure, the stats don't lie and with the tale of the tape read thus far in the points chase, Gordon sits in a solid sixth position with four top-10s in the first 10 races of the year. Even more significant than that is that all of those top-10 finishes have come from top-fives, with Gordon logging in a pair of runner-ups and third-place showings.
What's that mean in layman terms?
In essence, the No. 24 team has been one of the most stout groups on the circuit, leading the tour in laps led with 599 trips.
Remember the last time when this group led the series in laps led?
It wasn't that far back, but considering all that's changed in NASCAR in recent times, it was the 2007 season in which the pride of Vallejo, Calif. paced the field as the leader for 1,300 laps.
There's no question that the team unloads a solid car each week, and the pit crew's been consistently one of the best in executing fast stops as well as timely adjustments.
While the tenth race of the year bore resemblance to a B.J. Thomas hit in 1975 entitled "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song," it truly is a matter of time until the "FireStorm" colors find their way into Victory Lane.
Just as George McFly was able to score his fate with his high school sweetheart in Lorraine Baines (with a little help from his son), a little help from Gordon's friends as well as exorcising those late race demons will translate into a late spring swoon.
History favors the No. 24 team, with Darlington next on the agenda, followed by a date with the "Monster Mile" in Dover, Del. and Charlotte Speedweeks to close out "Motorsports May."
Unlike the Buffalo Bills, who epically succumbed in the Super Bowl spotlight in four consecutive tries during the early 1990s, Gordon, Letarte and the No. 24 DuPont Chevy team will be back in the high life again. Victories will come by the surplus, serving notice to a field that's had its eyes on Jimmie Johnson's efforts since 2006.
After all, it's just like how Richard Petty put it about the high stakes game of NASCAR racing, in the following:
"The best thing you can do on any given day is to put yourself in a position to win. Circumstances will dictate the outcome."
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