Top 10 NASCAR Driver of the Year 2011:
4 August 1971
Vallejo, California USA
Jeff Gordon might have turned 40 in 2011 and started referring to himself as an "old man," but that doesn't seem to have taken anything away from his ability or raw speed, or his competitiveness on the track week-in and week-out. And it also didn't stop him revealing (and demonstrating) a hitherto unsuspected talent for breakdancing, either.
In fact Gordon has rarely seemed more full of life of late than he has this season. He took three wins this year (Phoenix, Pocono and Atlanta) which is the first time that he's had multiple victories in one season since 2007. Phoenix itself put an end to a 66-race winless streak, while the rain-delayed Atlanta victory over his Hendrick team mate Jimmie Johnson entered the record books as Gordon's 85th Cup career win. In all, he recorded an average finish for the season of 13.0.
And yet despite these successes, it could have been better still. A few opportunities for still more victories slipped through his fingers, and while he entered the Chase in rude health his post-season run got off to a less than flying start: he was 24th in Chicago and out of the top ten for five of the first six races of the Chase, including an engine failure for the #24 at Kansas that particularly dented his title prospects. It all left him with too much ground to claw back on the leaders that had already succeeded in breaking away. A fifth title for the four-time champion simply wasn't to be this year.
"We should have won more than three races, and really been up there battling for the championship," admitted Gordon. Perhaps the most painful lost opportunity was missing out on victory lane at the Brickyard 400 to Paul Menard, who claimed the win on a fuel conservation strategy while Gordon had opted to come into the pits and make a late-race full-speed charge back to the front that came up just short.
A slight sense of frustration and "might have been" to Gordon's 2011 season, then. But despite that, he says that he feels "rejuvenated". Unlike other Chase drivers who came up short and who started making big changes in preparation for 2012, Gordon is quietly confident that all the pieces are in place for a resurgence and that its just a matter of time before it all clicks. There's no question that his "old man" is far from done with this young guy's sport just yet.
Top 10 NASCAR Driver of the Year 2011 results so far:
7. Marcos Ambrose
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Kasey Kahne
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.