With The Chase Coming Up, There Are No Guarantees...Just Ask Jeff Gordon

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IAugust 31, 2009

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 15:  From left, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, Driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet pose for a photo following the NASCAR Championsihp Contenders Press Conference on November 15, 2007 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As 2007 was wrapping up with only 10 races left on the schedule, Jeffrey Michael Gordon was on top of the racing world. “The drive for five” was very much alive and kicking.

Oh what a joy it was for all of Jeff’s faithful fans to be able to bask once again, thinking that the six-year championship drought would finally come to an end.

And that Gordon would once again hoist the championship trophy high above his head for the entire world to see.

This would also be Gordon’s chance to finally show all of the naysayers who felt that he lost the skills to win NASCAR’s most prestigious award, and that he still had what it took to win the big one.

Gordon, who had overcome the odds so many times during his brilliant NASCAR career, wanted nothing more than to prove that a kid from California, could actually race in a sport that was mostly dominated and run by some of the fiercest Southern boys that the world has ever seen.

After all, NASCAR’s roots were born on the back roads of some of the most famous, and notorious moonshiners in the business.

Just the thought of racing with some of NASCAR’s biggest stars is what dreams are made of, and Gordon was definitely living a dream.

A dream that many dreamt, but only a few were able to actually turn into reality.

Coming into the 2007 season, even though Gordon was little older then most of his fellow racers, he would begin to make his presence felt by capturing four wins in the first 14 races, along with back-to-back wins at Phoenix and Talladega.

Halfway to the chase during the 2007 season, Gordon was leading the point standings with three wins, seven poles, nine top fives, and a very impressive 11 top 10’s in only 13 starts.

Jeff was once again on top of the NASCAR world, while looking very unstoppable.

Everything seemed to be going his way, the same way that it had early on in his career.

After all, who could forget 1998 when he would win not 10, not 11, but instead 13 Winston cup races on his way to his third Winston Cup championship, while also becoming a back-to-back champion?

Now coming back to the 2007 season, while going into the last few races before the infamous Chase would take all of the wind out of his sails.

You could already buy bootleg t-shirts telling the world that Gordon would be a five-time champion.

Gordon’s fans were ready, NASCAR was ready, and even the naysayers were ready. Celebrations were already being planned, and all the talk that had surrounded Dale Earnhardt Jr. moving to HMS the next year almost seemed to vanish.

The talk around the NASCAR world was once again centered on Jeffrey Michael Gordon, who had waited six long years to finally reach the elusive fifth championship.

Gordon was once again the man of the hour, and he was the talk of the town. But there was still one obstacle that he had to overcome, an obstacle that was put there by NASCAR to make the end of the season more exciting.

It was an obstacle that could very well be bigger than Gordon himself. Now it was time for the NASCAR world to see if he could walk the walk once the Chase started?

After all, who could dethrone the man who not only knew how to win, but also knew how to kick adversity to the curb whenever it came knocking at his door?

The Chase was finally here, and it was now do or die time. The 300+ point lead that Gordon had built, would all be wiped away before the start of the first Chase race, and there would also be a new points leader.

How could all of this be happening? How could he go to sleep the night before, then wake up the next day realizing that he no longer was the king of the hill?

Gordon knew this was coming, but to actually see it had to feel more like a hard slap in the face.

Had the Chase not been implemented, Gordon would have been racing the last 10 races as sort of a tribute to his fans that followed him through thick and thin.

But instead it was 10 more races of having to overcome adversity once again. How could NASCAR do this to their one-time poster boy?

How come NASCAR didn’t step in and award him the championship trophy?

After all, he was the one who deserved it, and he is the one who dominated the series in 2007.

After all, he was Jeff Gordon. But to the shock of all of his faithful fans, the driver who was sixth in points would miraculously take over the points lead.

Why was this so bad for Jeff? After all it was his driver, his protégé, and his car that took his No. 1 spot.

But to anyone who has been around the sport for any length of time, it’s not about your driver or your car, but instead it’s all about you.

This whole season was all about Gordon and his “drive for five,” which started when the season began.

Gordon, as well as his fans knew that this season was all about him. Gordon had already seen one cup championship taken from his grasp, a couple of years earlier because of the Chase format.

But could this be happening again, and was this another déjà vu?

But wait, hold the presses! Gordon was not ready to concede the championship just yet, but instead he would come back to take the points lead once again with eight races to go.

There was still a lot of fire left in this veteran’s body, and Gordon would not go down without a fight.

He would come back and win back-to-back races at Talladega and Lowe’s to show these young guns that he still had the zeal and the energy to compete at their fast-paced level.

After all, Gordon was a crafty veteran, who knew what it took to win the big ones. He was once again on top of the NASCAR world, and the king of the mountain.

This was the same mountain that he had climbed many times during his stunning career.

So why should this ascent be any different?

Gordon was as big as life itself, while taking on the persona of the modern day version of NASCAR’s Goliath.

Gordon was also known for racing his way around NASCAR’s gladiator rings, while picking up win after win in his rainbow-colored chariot with devastating flames coming out of the sides.

But waiting in the wings as we all know the story, was a young man known as David. David was also a warrior, and he was a warrior of a different type.

Not only was David fast, but he was also quicker than his counterpart who already had some hard fought battles notched into his belt.

So as the drivers took to the track for the last five races during the Chase.

The much younger and faster David, better known to us modern-day fans as Jimmie Johnson, drove his blue and silver Lowe’s sponsored No. 48 chariot for all that it was worth.

There was no slowing him down and he slayed the mighty giant, by winning an astounding four races in a row to take the big guy down.

With a stone's throw, Gordon was put to sleep.

In one of our modern day’s best battles for NASCAR supremacy, Johnson defiled all odds and won his second straight Sprint Cup championship going back to back, in an extraordinary display of driving talent.

He never once gave up, nor did he ever look back. Instead with his eyes focused straight ahead, he took NASCAR by storm and drove every race like it was going to be his last.

And once again the Chase denied the mighty Gordon a chance to put history within his grasp, just like it did in 2004.

Many have said that Johnson deserved the championship, because of the awesome display of driving he displayed once the chase began.

And then, of course, there were those who felt that NASCAR cheated not only Gordon, but all the future drivers who would see their championship hopes disappear because of the Chase format.

But no matter how we choose to decide, the decision has already been made and its one that we as the fans have to live with, whether we like it or not.

Jimmie Johnson drove without any distractions or regards to accomplishing anything but taking first place.

Johnson came out of no man's land to take the prize that was already sitting on Gordon’s mantle. And once again as NASCAR has proven itself time after time, there are no guarantees.


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