Owner: Rick Hendrick/Jeff Gordon • Team: Hendrick Motorsports • Crew Chief: Robbie Loomis
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Final Points Standing
After First 26 Races
Lead Lap Finishes
Below is the ranking of the team on each type of
track along with the driver's best finish.
1st, Talladega, Daytona
After the 2004 season, we sat down with facts and figures to determine if Jeff Gordon could win his fifth championship. He has the team, crew chief and program to get the job done, but so do five or six other teams. The difference between Gordon and the rest comes in his sometimes-unbeatable combination of talent, team and experience. Gordon has won four Cups and now has a year working within the parameters of the Chase system. Being the smartest as well as the most talented driver should be the determining factor this year.
Without hesitation, we see Gordon winning his share of poles and races in ’05. The Robbie Loomis-led team may also lead the most laps this season, a feat it failed to accomplish in ’04.
On the downside, Gordon made some mental errors on the track last season, and there were three or four races where the DuPont team missed the setup. For this team to prosper, these issues need to be addressed.
Nevertheless, Gordon has the ability to win at any track and dominate races like he did at Martinsville, Indy and Sonoma last year. His biggest title threat should come from within, in the form of Jimmie Johnson. If the 24 can stay one fender ahead of the 48, that fifth championship should be a reality.
Any time you finish 16 points behind the series champion, you’ve had a great year. That is exactly what Jeff Gordon did, and we can Monday morning quarterback the season to see exactly where he fell short.
Gordon has always been one of the best under pressure, and he fought off several disasters last year. In the final 10 races, Gordon was able to salvage decent finishes with cars that did not want to cooperate. At Charlotte and Dover, Gordon looked to be down for the count, but the team never gave up, nabbing top 5 finishes.
Gordon’s 2004 season had a couple of engine failures and crashes, but the most unique obstacle was the chunk of concrete he hit in Martinsville. Gordon was the driver to beat until the track broke up, damaging the car and ruining the day. The DuPont Chevy had only six finishes of 30th or worse, which is a credit to the durability of the Hendrick equipment.
• The Good: Bonus points. Gordon earned 160 bonus points by leading a lap in 25 races last season. He led the most laps in seven of those events.
• The Bad: The transmission failed at Atlanta in October. Either a part failed or the driver junked the tranny leaving the pits. Gordon lost a critical spot in the points that day.
• The Ugly: Gordon’s performances in the two Bristol races were ugly. In March, he entered the pits wrong and lost valuable track position. In August, he lined up in the wrong line, got penalized and lost two laps. The car was good enough to win both races — the driver was not.