Jeff Gordon: Contender In '07, Pretender in '08

Mark Eckhart Jr.Correspondent IOctober 30, 2008

Many NASCAR fans predicted Jeff Gordon would claim his 5th Sprint Cup championship in 2008 based on the way he ran throughout all of 2007, including the Chase. He had six victories, and a series record 30 top ten finishes. That's right I said 30, he even averaged a top five finish through the ten race for the Chase races. What was the reason he didn't claim his fifth championship last season, in two words Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson was simply just that much better. Johnson rattled off four consecutive wins to overtake Gordon as the eventual series champion, and became the first driver to have repeat championships since Gordon did it in 1997-98.

This season, it seems that Gordon has fallen off the map. Sure they've been competitive in their fair share of races, and have had a few shots to get into victory lane. Unfortunately for the No.24 team, this has been a season where if it can go wrong, it has.

The No.24 team was able to qualify for this season's Chase, even without the benefit of a win before hand (Busch was to busy claiming all the trophies.) However, now in the Chase Gordon hasn't taken off like many of us expected him to. He's mired in one of the longest winless streaks of his Cup career. Furthermore, with the series heading to Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead, three tracks where Gordon has one combined win, the streak is likely to carry over into 2009.

It could have something to do with the new car being used full time starting with this season because last season the No. 24 and the No. 48, seemed to be heads and tails above the field when it came to the COT races. Then when they went back to the current car at the time, they were still just as fast.

This season Gordon has struggled at times to get a handle on this new car, and his performance has shown it. He has been very competitive the last two weeks at Martinsville and Atlanta, so maybe the No. 24 team can build on that momentum for the 2009 season. As far as this season goes, the proof is in the photo.