Season finish: 6th
2014 Season Stats: 4 Wins, 14 Top-5s, 23 Top-10s, 3 Poles.
What went right: In a season that reminded us of his 1990s glory days, the four-time Sprint Cup champion held the points lead for much of the regular season. He earned three victories during that span but none were bigger than his fifth career triumph in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, which elevated him further among the ranks of Indy legends. Gordon rolled on into the Chase and earned a fourth 2014 win in the Challenger Round finale at Dover; he would then score three more runner-up finishes in the homestretch at Charlotte, Martinsville, and Phoenix.
In summary, he showed us why he’ll go down as a legend in the sport and a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer.
What went wrong: Late in the Eliminator Round middle race at Texas, Brad Keselowski and Gordon made contact after the former went for a piece of real estate on a restart. Gordon’s tire subsequently went down and relegated him to 29th; you know the rest of the story. Then, one week later in the Eliminator finale at Phoenix, Gordon’s runner-up finish wasn’t enough to put him in the Championship Round at Homestead after Ryan Newman shoved Kyle Larson aside on the final lap to finish 11th and earn the final Championship spot.
Beyond those instances, there was one notable touch of negative: Gordon’s back woes, which came to the fore after spasms forced him out of Coca-Cola 600 practice in May. He would run the 600-mile race, but the back episode touched off talk of Gordon having to retire if those issues persist. If he wants to eventually claim a fifth Cup title, it’s something he’ll have to stay on top of.
2015 Prospectus: Despite those cruel twists of fate at Texas and Phoenix, Gordon and the 24 camp (led by crew chief Alan Gustafson) know they had a 2014 season they can feel good about and will be very eager to keep up the pace in 2015. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them bag multiple wins again.