With finishes of 33rd and 41st in the first two races of 2015 – the result of late-race wrecks – it’s been a rough start to Jeff Gordon’s final full-time season in Sprint Cup racing.
Had it not been for those two crashes, Gordon likely would head into this weekend’s race at Las Vegas with back-to-back top 10s.
Instead, Gordon finds himself in rather unfamiliar territory – tied for 35th in the standings with Tony Stewart.
With a combined seven championships between them, both drivers are 72 points behind Sprint Cup Series leader Joey Logano.
Given that the maximum number of points a driver can earn for winning a race is 48, Gordon and Stewart are more than a full race behind Logano. But a win in any of the next 24 races likely will put Gordon and Stewart in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon has managed to rally from deeper holes. He began the 1996 season with back-to-back accidents and finishes of 42nd and 40th.
He bounced back with one of the most torrid runs of his career, winning three of his next four starts en route to 10 wins that season.
He capped that comeback by finishing second in the standings, 37 points behind champion and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte.
Had it not been for that slow start in 1996, Gordon potentially could have won four championships in a row, as he captured series crowns in ’95, ’97 and ’98 (as well as a fourth title in ’01).
Of course, there were only 31 races in 1996 (vs. 36 in 2015) and no Chase for the Sprint Cup, either.
Gordon’s only win at Las Vegas was in 2001. His record at the 1.5-mile track is one win, six top-5 and eight top-10 finishes in 17 stars. He placed ninth in last year’s race, his best showing since finishing third in 2010.
Still, Gordon is philosophical about how his season has started and where he and his team have to go from here.
“It’s an unfortunate way to start the season,” Gordon said in a release from the team. “We just have to dig ourselves out of this hole.”