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NASCAR Season Preview: Jeff Gordon

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#24 Drive to End Hunger/DuPont Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports

Born: August 4, 1971

Home: Pittsboro, Indiana

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: After scoring only one win in the past three seasons, Gordon took three Sprint Cup victories in 2011 – at Phoenix in February, Pocono in June, and Atlanta on Labor Day weekend – to score the third seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Gordon would finish eighth in points with 18 top 10s and only three DNFs.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Gordon spent much of the season outside of the top 10 in points, finally climbing out of the Chase wild-card spot at Infineon, and his Chase left a lot to be desired. A 24th place finish at Chicago put him 11th to start, and four more finishes outside of the top 20 limited his overall efficacy.

SEASON OUTLOOK: Gordon and Alan Gustafson will look to build on their second year together by returning to the Chase and having a much less bipolar run towards the championship in 2012. When this team was good, it was very good – dominant, even, a fact to which 138 laps led in the Phoenix win would attest – but when it was bad, it was very bad. Gordon spent the first half of the season in the lower part of the top 20 in points, struggling to find consistency and get into form, until something kicked in at Pocono and the team reasserted itself. But come Chase time, the bipolar runs returned, as four finishes of sixth or better were negated by five finishes of 21st or worse.

Hendrick Motorsports splits its four cars into two two-car stables, and Gordon and Gustafson will work with new additions Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis in 2012. So far, things appear to be working out, judging by positive results at Daytona testing, and Gordon appears to be a driver rejuvenated both by on-track success and fatherhood. The four-time Cup champion marks 20 years of working with sponsor DuPont this season, and there would be no better way to celebrate that relationship than with a fifth title. The goal, then, is to cut down on the Jekyll-and-Hyde results that hindered them last season; if they can channel more Jekyll than Hyde, there’s no reason why this team won’t at least be in the top five in points come Homestead.

– Chris Leone

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