Sprint Cup Driver Review: Jeff Gordon

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After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year.

Placing sixth in the championship this past season was Jeff Gordon…

JEFF GORDON
No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2013 Stats: Sixth Place, One Win, 8 Top-5s, 17 Top-10s, 434 Laps Led
Average Start: 12.9
Average Finish: 14.4
DNFs: 5

Estrada Says: Give Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team credit for putting themselves into the title picture after their addition to the Chase following all the Richmond problems. He avoided bad results before breaking through for a critical win at Martinsville. But then came Texas, where he blew a tire and slammed into the wall before finishing 33rd. It was a tough ending to his bid for a fifth Sprint Cup, but let’s not forget that his regular season wasn’t all that great (only five Top-5s in the first 26 races). Consistency is what the No. 24 camp will be searching for next year.

DiZinno Says: Taken on the whole, Gordon’s year wasn’t even as solid’s as teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s. But where Gordon thrived is when adversity was staring him in the face, and he had to get himself into Chase contention once again in the last month before Richmond and the sequence of events that followed there. Gordon’s closer to the end of his career than the start and if he wants to win that elusive fifth title, the combo of luck and consistency needs to be there more in the regular season. It was a great Chase, but a less-than-perfect opening 26 races. More peaks and fewer valleys are needed for the iconic No. 24 team in 2014.

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Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.