Hot Streak Vaults Gordon Into Championship Picture
by John Close
Charlotte, NC (August 5, 2010 ) - When Jeff Gordon left Pocono Raceway on June 10, he was suffering through one of his worst NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons of his illustrious career. With no victories and only one top-five finish through the first 14 weeks of the season, Gordon finished 19th at Pocono in June, was 22nd in the points, and had many writing him off as an also-ran in the 2012 championship chase.
On Sunday, Gordon gave them something different to write about.
Thanks to a couple of 'miracles,' Gordon not only won Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono, but he also jumped to 13th in the standings and the second 'Wild Card' position in the championship scramble.
Gordon's march into playoff contention has featured a string of top performances, not the least of which was Sunday's improbable win at Pocono in which he never led a green-flag lap. Gordon inherited the top spot when his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and race leader Jimmie Johnson crashed the top-four cars as they sped into Turn 1 on a restart.
Gordon, fifth at the time, ducked under the melee and literally squirted into the lead as the yellow flag flew. Almost immediately, the skies over Long Pond, PA opened up and after seven laps of caution, NASCAR red-flagged the race as a downpour of biblical proportions swamped the speedway.
That gave Gordon - third on all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup win list - his 86th career victory and new hope for a chance to race for title when the Chase kicks in a little over a month from now.
To do that, Gordon will have to post solid efforts in the remaining five 'regular season' races at Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. In case you're wondering, the odds are pretty good that Gordon will do well as he has previously won at each of these raceways totaling a combined 18 victories.
Toss in the fact that Gordon has been one of NASCAR's hottest drivers since the June Pocono race averaging a 5.8 finish and scoring a whopping 275 points over the last seven events, and suddenly he's not only a candidate to make the Chase, but also not a bad bet to win it.
'Wonder Boy' indeed.
More NASCAR Controversy
The crowd outside the NASCAR hauler Sunday at Pocono resembled the line around your local Chick Fil-A as several drivers had issues with where they were scored at the end of the Pennsylvania 400.
Per NASCAR procedure, the field was 'frozen' when the yellow flag was displayed after Johnson's caution inducing crash on Lap 92. The field was then scored per NASCAR rule at the last embedded electronic scoring loop prior to the yellow flag coming out.
That all sounds easy to understand until you realize that none of the drivers or teams knew where those scoring loops were located on the track at Pocono. That left several drivers who saw their finishes scrambled when they slowed to avert the wreck wondering where the loops are and exactly in what position they were in as the yellow flag came out.
Like the restart rules fiasco that had NASCAR officials in damage control mode last week at Indianapolis, this appears to be yet another time when the sanctioning body has not fully or clearly communicated the rules to it's competitors.
In this case, there shouldn't be any issues. Since all the cars have GPS transponders, you can pinpoint exactly where they were at any time, any point of the race. Given that each speedway is different, all NASCAR has to do is either issue a speedway diagram - or tell everyone in the crew chief meeting prior to the practice - where the scoring loops are located on that particular track.
No muss, no fuss, end of confusion and controversy.
With drivers and teams fighting for every point and the window of opportunity quickly closing for some on their chance to make the Chase, NASCAR needs to make sure that these kind of unique to this track rules are clearly communicated each week. Maybe then we can have a race where all the questions of the day are answered on the track, not in the NASCAR hauler or in front of the cameras afterward.
You've got to hand it to Todd Bodine.
In Bodine's 770 career starts in four different NASCAR divisions, we can never recall when he admitted that an on-track incident was his fault.
Bodine stayed true to his 'Who, me?' mantra Saturday when he clearly wrecked himself in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono.
In case you missed it, Bodine tried to squeeze down in front of Nelson Piquet, Jr. as the field raced off of Turn 1 midway through Saturday's race. Slight contact between the two vehicles sent Bodine's truck hard into the inside retaining wall.
Fortunately, Bodine wasn't injured in the crash. Afterward, he threw his helmet at Piquet's truck as the Brazilian driver motored by under caution.
Later when Bodine was released from the infield care center, he blasted Piquet in the media for the wreck despite the fact that replays from several angles clearly showed he - not Piquet, Jr. - was the culprit in the incident.
It will be interesting to see what kind of punishment NASCAR gives Bodine for throwing his helmet. Those kinds of actions almost always are accompanied with a fine and some sort of double-secret probation.
Unfortunately, NASCAR has no fines for never admitting you were at fault. If they did, Bodine would probably be the all-time leader in that category.