Will Jeff Gordon Ever Contend for Another Sprint Cup Series Championship?

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst ISeptember 25, 2013

Jeff Gordon hasn't won a series championship since 2001.
Jeff Gordon hasn't won a series championship since 2001.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Jeff Gordon has the most wins among active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. His 87 victories rank him third all-time, trailing only Hall of Famers Richard Petty and David Pearson.

He is a four-time series champion who will unquestionably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer whenever he decides to hang up the racing helmet for good.

Gordon has done everything there is to do in the sport. Everything, that is, except win a championship under the current Chase format.

Now, at 42 years old and clearly on the downhill side of his career, one can not help but wonder if he will ever seriously contend for a championship again.

Gordon has not won a series title since 2001, and in the last five years, he has only finished inside the top five in the standings one time.

While he is still clearly capable of winning races, Gordon's trips to Victory Lane have been few and far between in recent years.

In his first nine years of Sprint Cup competition, the time frame that saw him win all four of his championships, Gordon won 58 races. That is a winning percentage of 19.8 percent over that time.

Since 2008, he has only managed to score six wins in 208 starts. That win percentage is only 2.8 percent, a far cry from the dominance he once possessed in the early stages of his career.

The 2013 season sees Gordon once again competing in the Chase. His entry into postseason competition was only by virtue of the fallout from the Michael Waltrip Racing scandal at Richmond.

NASCAR ruled that Gordon was an innocent victim in the incident and awarded him with an entry in the playoffs as the 13th participant, an unprecedented move by the sanctioning body.

Though he is one of the Chase contenders, it is tough to label him a true threat at winning the title.

Gordon is on pace to post his least amount of top-10 and top-five finishes, as well as laps led, since his rookie season in 1993.

With just eight races remaining in the season, Gordon has failed to win a race. If he goes winless for the entire year, it will mark the third time in the last six seasons that zero would be the number in the win column.

Prior to the 2008 season, it was unfathomable to think that Gordon could race a full season and fail to earn at least one win, as it had not happened since his rookie year.

While Gordon is undoubtedly one of the greatest drivers ever to compete in the Sprint Cup Series, no one can remain at the top forever. It appears as if his days of regularly posting top-10 finishes and competing for championships are quickly coming to a close.

That is not to say that Gordon will no longer have success in NASCAR's top division. He could still win plenty more races and even break the 100-win mark before his career is over.

Gordon is still in the top tier of drivers in the series and should continue to post finishes in the standings in the sixth- to tenth-place range. But with his recent run of mediocre points finishes, the days of realistically expecting Gordon to be a championship contender are a thing of the past.

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