Exactly a decade ago, Jeff Gordon was about a month into the greatest NASCAR season that no one will likely remember once it fades from memory, and that's a shame.
No one was bit more by the Chase for the Championship than Gordon, already a four-time champion, but a driver who probably would have earned three more if not for the playoff format instituted back in 2004. He scored the most overall points in 2004, 2007 and 2014 but it’s the 2007 season that still sticks out among the greatest efforts in NASCAR history, regardless of the eventual outcome. Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte won six times, but that wasn't even the most impressive statistic.
That distinction belongs to the No. 24 team earning 21 top-fives and a Cup Series record THIRTY top-10s in 36 starts.
Better put, there were only six races in which Gordon failed to finish inside the top 10. By the way, he did that driving two different cars -- the newly introduced Car of Tomorrow and the long-standing fourth-generation Cup car.
So what happened to prevent Gordon from completing the Drive for Five? Naturally, it was the Jimmie Johnson Championship Buzzsaw of the mid-2000s that had only just begun a season earlier. While Gordon’s overall numbers were indeed historic, Johnson’s were nearly as impressive -- and more so when it mattered -- during the Chase.
Johnson won 10 races in the season and four of the final five to cruise out of Homestead-Miami Speedway with his second straight Sprint Cup crown. Gordon won back-to-back races himself in the middle of the Chase at Talladega and Charlotte, and he still doesn’t quite know how he let that one slip away.
"Looking back on it, I still can't believe we didn't close out," Gordon told Autoweek during Daytona Speedweeks in February. "I had never found myself in that position and wasn’t able to pull it off. We had some really..."
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