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…

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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NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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