Jeff Gordon is a 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion or as he’s more recently been known as; the unluckiest man in NASCAR. He’s won at nearly every track on the circuit and Jeff is still running competitively in his 22nd year of competition but luck has not been in his favor at all recently. It all started when he flipped over in the 2012 Budweiser Shootout (now known as the Sprint Unlimited) and since then, bad luck seems to be following him everywhere he goes. Every driver has bad luck but it seems to show up every time Gordon is having a nice run. Let’s take a look at the ups and downs of Jeff’s career since that wild wreck in Daytona last year…
Just 80 laps into the 2012 Daytona 500, Jeff Gordon’s engine basically detonated and his day was over. A few races later at Bristol, contact with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. cut down his left rear tire and he went crashing into the wall. Two weeks later at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon was battling hard with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the win. Whichever one of them won that race would be the person to give Hendrick Motorsports their 200th Cup win and Gordon wanted to be that person very, very badly. After a controversial late caution where David Reutimann stopped on track after he rode around for a few laps at an incredibly slow speed, the field lined up for a restart. The race went back green and Clint Bowyer dove underneath the Hendrick duo for the lead and the unthinkable happened. All three cars went spinning and Jeff’s chances to give Rick that 200th win went up in a cloud of smoke. That incident had a big impact on Gordon and the anger built up inside him for months before things came to a head but we’ll get to that later.
After bad luck seemed to haunt him almost everywhere he went, a change in fortune headed the team’s way when they visited Pocono in August. Rain was closing in on the track so the tempo of the race picked up with drivers becoming highly aggressive. Jeff restarted 6th on lap 91 and by the time the field exited turn 1, he was leading the race! Race leaders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth collided and a four car wreck ensued. Gordon sneaked through and then the heavens opened up securing him his first victory of 2012. Something happened to that team after that win and they went on a tear finishing 3rd or 2nd in three of the next five races.
The team went to Richmond on the outside looking in chase wise but with a lot of momentum on their side. It all came down to them and Kyle Busch. The car was awful during the event and the team threw everything including the kitchen sink at the car but nothing was working and he was lapped. During a red flag for rain, the team put a plan together as they desperately tried to fix the handling of the car while Gordon pretty much ruled out any chance of making the chase when he was interviewed. The changes shockingly worked and Jeff began to rocket through the field. When all was said and done, he finished 2nd stealing the WC from Kyle Busch by just a handful of points. They made the chase and were ready to go out and try to win the championship. Bad luck found Gordon again just in time for the chase when he crashed hard during the opening playoff race at Chicagoland. They ran very well the following races but it wasn’t enough after that 35th place finish put them far behind. At Martinsville, he found himself battling with Clint Bowyer once again and he obviously didn’t forget about what happened in April as the two began door slamming each other late in the race.
At Phoenix, Bowyer made what seemed to be harmless contact with Gordon but Jeff’s blood pressure immediately went through the roof as he tried to wreck Clint the next corner. He failed and ended up putting himself in the wall instead only making him angrier. With just two laps to go, he waited for Bowyer who was a title contender at the time and wrecked him head-on into the wall. Two other cars were collected and Bowyer’s title hopes were shot. The No.15 crew went after Jeff and an all-out brawl ensued in the garage area. Clint jumped from his mangled car and joined in on the chaos as he ran through the infield. A contingent of people wanted Gordon suspended while others said Bowyer deserved it. Clint Bowyer fans and Jeff Gordon fans clashed all over the internet engaging in very heated arguments while the racing world waited on NASCAR to make a decision. They let Gordon race in the season finale but he was stripped of 25 points and $100,000. Gordon’s car featured a special DuPont 20th anniversary paint scheme in what would be their final race on the hood of his car before Cromax took over the company. Wasn’t it fitting that in the closing laps, it was none other than Jeff Gordon leading the race with Clint Bowyer of all people trying to hunt him down and steal the victory. Jeff hung on to win his 87th career NSCS race ending his wild year in victory lane.
Unsurprisingly, Gordon was knocked right back down by bad luck at the start of 2013. He dominated Bristol and it seemed he was the car to beat. That is until his right front tire blew while he led the pack with just 100 laps remaining. He shot up the track collecting Matt Kenseth destroying both cars. He could have won Texas too but was forced to retire from the race late with a mechanical failure In the Coke 600, he survived the carnage and had a chance to steal the victory had bad luck not killed his day once again. He pitted, the caution flew and he was trapped a lap down getting passed by the leader when he was just a few feet away from the exit of pit lane. He kept fighting though but a vicious pileup on lap 324 was the final nail in the coffin. Gordon hit a concrete wall incredibly hard but perhaps he was actually lucky just to escape with no serious injuries.
Jeff Gordon hasn’t lost the will to win or his ability to run up front. He’s simply been tormented by bad luck for the past two seasons. Ever since that flip at Daytona, his career has been turned upside down. Whenever something good happens to him, something bad quickly follows erasing all the positives that came out of his good result. If he and his team can get this monkey off their back, I know he can win a 5th championship. I believe he could make it to 100 total wins too. I’m not sure how many hard hits and morale killing races the 41 year old can endure though before he finally throws in the towel. After all those years of domination, it seems like Karma has finally caught up with the 4x champion. Perhaps this is an omen of things to come for the luckiest man on the track, Jimmie Johnson. Maybe I will be writing a similar article about him 10 years from now. I’m not saying there are supernatural forces out there targeted Jeff Gordon, that’s just silly but bad luck in racing seems to always lead to more bad luck. It usually gets worse before it gets better. Even the best team in NASCAR can’t predict the things that have cursed the No.24 and who knows if this bad luck will ever cease. If it does though, I firmly believe he will win a 5th title before he finally hangs up the helmet.