Jeff Gordon's 2011 Season Sparked By His Win in Phoenix

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IFebruary 28, 2011

AVONDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on February 27, 2011 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Nearly two full years had passed since Jeff Gordon had won a Sprint Cup Series race. Then on Sunday, 66 weeks of frustration were finally put to rest as Gordon drove to victory lane in Phoenix. This was his first win since Texas back in April of 2009.

The big question that will now be facing Gordon is, what does this mean going forward? Everyone thought that after he broke his previous losing streak of 47 with that win at Texas, that the old Jeff Gordon was back. That he would drive in to victory lane numerous times, just like he always had.

Then sure enough, we were all wrong. It has taken this long to see his return trip to the winner's circle. This time will be different though—I have said all along that 2011 would be a big season for Gordon, and he is well on his way to making that come true.

This past offseason, Rick Hendrick shuffled the driver and crew chief combinations on three of his four race teams. Steve Letarte, the man who called the races for Gordon a season ago, moved over to work with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Lance McGrew and Mark Martin were paired together, and the most intriguing of the new pairing was that of crew chief Alan Gustafson and Gordon. Although Gustafson and Mark Martin struggled for a majority of 2010, he is still widely regarded as one of the best crew chiefs in the sport.

It appeared, at least on paper, that this had the potential to be an unbeatable combination. Two weeks into the season, and so far so good. Gordon was involved in the big one at lap 29 of the Daytona 500, so it is impossible to say how successful the duo could have been in that race.

Phoenix, however, was a raving success. Gordon led a race-high 138 laps on Sunday, and took the lead from Kyle Busch with less than 10 laps to go, and then held on to win.

Hanging on to win was something that Gordon just couldn't do a year ago. Multiple times, Gordon was leading in the closing laps, and for whatever reason, he couldn't ever quite close the deal.

The fact that he was able to do so this time further proves that he may be primed to yet again make a serious run for the championship in 2011.

While this may just be yet another win for Jeff Gordon to some people, this win is something more than that to him and to those of us who put enormous expectations on the four time series champion. This win is quite possibly the start of something really big.


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