After winning three rounds ago at Indianapolis, the 24 team was on a role. A dominant win at Indianapolis 20 years on from Gordon winning NASCAR’s first race there in 1994, they looked unstoppable.
The next two races didn’t go the same way though, as poor strategy at the end of the race ruined his winning chances at Pocono and despite earning pole at Watkins Glen, he retired with an electrical failure. All the momentum built up by Gordon looked to have vanished.
Fast forward to this weekend’s Michigan 400 though, and the race perfectly signified the team’s spirit, as a perfect performance both in the pits and on the track gave Gordon his third win of the season, the first time since 2011 he’s achieved this feat.
Some will point to Hendrick’s dominance in 2014 as a key factor for Gordon’s resurgence, which undoubtedly is a vital element, but there is a huge difference in Gordon’s driving this year which is putting him into contention week in and week out. Restarts.
“That was the restart of my life,” said Gordon of his late race restart at Indianapolis in July, it’s something Gordon has struggled with ever since the car of tomorrow was introduced in 2007. So many times has the Californian been in a position to win races, only to be stymied by late cautions and ultimately, the restarts which the cautions inevitably bring about.
In Michigan on Sunday, Gordon produced another fine restart, albeit matched by a brilliant overtaking move on Logano when under fierce pressure, giving him a third win of the season and a return to the top of the points standings. He struggled early in the race, but produced the perfect restart at the perfect time, which is big part of winning races in modern NASCAR.
The four time champion has been outclassed by team-mate Jimmie Johnson since 2005, in the championship department at least, but with his new found knack for restarts Gordon has put himself right back among the favourites for a Sprint Cup title.
The lack of decent restarts is something that has been missing from his repertoire for some time. Not only will it put him back in contention at the end of races, it makes the 39-year-old a contender for victory in every race he enters.
There has been a whole host of reasons for Gordon not winning a championship under the ‘chase’ format, but his new found restarting ability and Hendrick’s dominance in NASCAR this year, Gordon is a scary proposition as we head toward the Chase.