Race Weekend Central

Jeff’s Fare(not so)well Tour

Jeff Gordon likely never imagined it could go this way.

The 2015 Sprint Cup season was supposed to be a reason to celebrate. It was supposed to be a time for reliving old memories while making exciting new ones. It was his one last shot at winning one final championship.

Then the season started.

Gordon got things off to a good start by winning the pole for the Daytona 500, but 2015 has been more of a lowlight reel than a highlight reel since February. Other pole positions followed at Las Vegas and Talladega, but race day performance for the No. 24 Chevrolet has been less than what NASCAR Nation expected.

Jeff Gordon currently stands 11th in the points, even though he has yet to win a race this year. Jamie McMurray has not won yet in 2015, either, yet he currently sits 9th in the standings. Given the peculiar nature of the Chase format, all we can do is stand by and wait to see how the remainder of the pre-season unfolds. Most fans want to see Jeff Gordon make the Chase, but his time, like the number of races, is running out.

Getting into the Chase on points means still making it into the post-season, but it is definitely not how Jeff Gordon wanted to see his final season as a driver unspool. His eleven top-tens after twenty races makes an impressive statistic, for sure, but seeing it in contrast to only two top-fives for the season thus far is disheartening. Match those numbers to the four wins scored by both Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, and 2015 appears to be sliding out from Jeff Gordon’s grasp.

Take last Sunday’s Brickyard 400, for example.

After much-deserved celebrations in his adopted hometown of Pittsboro, Indiana, earlier in the week, Gordon found his No. 24 in the garage for repairs after a shunt with the wall on lap 49. He rejoined the field on lap 54 only to struggle for the next 12 laps. Gordon went to the garage on lap 66 and waited out the necessary repairs.

Thanks to the efforts of Alan Gustafson and the entire No. 24 pit crew, Jeff was able to race again, but his final Sprint Cup appearance at Indianapolis ended with the five-time (and defending) Brickyard winner finishing 54 laps off the pace in 42nd position.

Not the storybook ending NASCAR Nation anticipated.

And maybe that’s the problem: we expect Jeff Gordon’s final season as a driver to be as good as so many of his previous years were. Gordon enjoyed so many successful seasons as a driver that we expect nothing less.

Think back about two decades. From 1995 through 2000, Jeff Gordon won fifty (as in 5-0) Sprint Cup races. Fans who came of age and discovered NASCAR during those years grew accustomed to seeing Gordon in Victory Lane. He won championships and wooed the media while infuriating Dale Earnhardt fans and rewriting the record books. NASCAR Nation was founded, in part, because of how Jeff Gordon brought a regional sport to a younger and decidedly more mainstream audience.

And now those fans, decidedly older and familiar with the ways of the sport, expect one last glimpse of “Wonder Boy’s” previous glory.

Expectations, so much more often than not, lead to disappointment. We expect our children to excel in school, find careers, and move away to begin successful lives, only to watch in near horror as they move boxes back into the basement and reclaim their old bedrooms. We start diet and exercise programs expecting to reshape our bodies and our lives only to realize that our previous, healthy selves no longer exist. We expect the good, yet often discover the bad.

Maybe that’s where NASCAR Nation has erred? Fans have expected the Jeff Gordon of 1997 only to find the Jeff Gordon of 2015. His life has changed just as the sport has changed.

Just like we’ve changed, too.

The best way to proceed, I guess, is to not have expectations in the first place. Then, when events don’t go off as you hoped, you’re less inclined to be disappointed.

Such thinking, however, is easier said than done. Ask Jeff Gordon.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via