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Victory continues to elude Gordon

There will come a day - and that day may come soon - when Jeff Gordon will tire of saying all the right things.

For now, Gordon says he is elated with the progress he, crew chief Steve Letarte and the rest of the #24 Hendrick Motorsports team have made since last year. That euphoria will pale, however, unless Gordon can find a way to win a race, not simply post a top-five finish.

“It's encouraging,” Gordon said of his runner-up finish in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I'm a big believer that you got to walk before you can run. I think we've turned the corner. This team has really shown consistently in all four races this year that we're a team that can battle up front and for the win.

“I believe if we keep doing that, we're going to win races. I think that we haven't really reached our full potential yet, either. We're experimenting with something that the guys worked hard on over the off-season, the engineers, Steve, all the guys on this team. It's already been paying off. We're just really early into it. I think we can only make it better.

“Of course, I want to win. We've been close. But I'm not going to say we feel like we're frustrated. We're pretty happy the way we're running.”

There's no denying that Gordon and his team have started 2009 on a better note than they finished 2008. Gordon qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last year, but he was winless for the first time since 1993, his first full season of Cup racing. When it came to the championship, he was an afterthought.

Four races into the current season, his average finish is 5.8, and he leads the points standings by 43 points over second-place Clint Bowyer. There's only one problem. Despite his early-season strength, Gordon has raced 45 straight times without a win, the longest drought of his career.

If the winless streak continues, it's bound to gnaw on a driver who has won four championships and 81 races, sixth on the all-time list. No other driver active today lives in such rarefied air. Part-timer Bill Elliott has 44 victories. Jimmie Johnson, who drives a car on which Gordon is the owner of record, has been to victory lane 40 times.

Worth noting is that eleven of Johnson's victories have come since Gordon won his last race, the Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Oct. 13, 2007. Since then, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have posted nine victories each.

Collectively, Johnson, Edwards and Busch are the yardstick by which Gordon must measure himself, if he is to realise his ambition of winning a championship under the Chase format.



Related Pictures

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Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle battle at Auto Club Speedway   [pic credit: Getty/NASCAR]
Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. Elliott takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon.  (Photo by Ashley R Dickerson for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s / Superman Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20, 2016 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 American Ethanol Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2016 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fifth position Friday, March 11, 2016 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Hendrick Motorsports driver Johnson experienced an issue during qualifying.  He will go to a back-up car. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, leads Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2016 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with a burnout Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins.  (Photo by Andrew Coppley for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory with his wife, Chandra and daughters Genevieve and Lydia Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, crosses the finish line for the victory Sunday, February 28, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. This was Johnson`s 76th career win, 5th in Atlanta. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished second. The victory ties Johnson with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in NASCAR premier series wins. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS drives to victory Thursday, February 18, 2016 winning the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Can-Am Duel races at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. This is Earnhardt Jr.`s second consecutive Duel victory. He will start on the inside of Row 2 for Sunday`s Daytona 500 race. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Chase Elliott, rookie driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS captures the pole Sunday, February 14, 2016 during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Elliott, who takes over the #24 car from retired driver Jeff Gordon, is the youngest driver ever to win the pole. He will lead the pack at the start of the February 21 race. (Photo by HHP/ Rusty Jarrett for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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