Crunching Numbers: Jeff Gordon is back

June, 14, 2011

In my sleep-deprived Sunday night state (never go to a late Saturday movie and then work a 12-hour day starting at 5 a.m.), I got to think about what I would've written about Jeff Gordon had I had this blog as a teenager back in the 1990s.

Back in that time, Jeff Gordon flat out owned the NASCAR world, putting up win totals never before seen in the modern era.

Although he didn't keep up the 10-wins-a-year pace, he still was a threat to win week in and week out for nearly a decade and a half. Suddenly, the magic was gone.

You can blame the hard wreck he had at Vegas, him having a family, or even the increased level of competition, but from 2008-10, Gordon had just a single win.

This year, Gordon has multiple wins for the first time in four seasons, and while he's not yet in the top 10 in points, his ability to get back in Victory Lane has nudged him back into the championship discussion.

But, before we look forward, let's take time to look back to Sunday.

Joining greatness

The win gave Gordon a mere 84 for his Cup series career, breaking a tie with Cale Yarborough for fifth, and moving into a tie for third with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.

Just don't ask Allison how many wins he has. Let's just say he can make a case for 85.

Sure, David Pearson may still be 21 wins away, which at this point could be an unattainable goal for Gordon, but he's making history with each victory.

Consider this, my literary friends: With the win, Gordon tied Bill Elliott for the most Pocono wins with five. It's the fourth track where Gordon has at least a share of the wins record, along with Sonoma, Indianapolis and Kansas.

Trivia break! Who is Gordon tied with for the most Kansas wins?

Pole climbing

Kurt Busch finished second, but winning the pole almost assured him of a great finish.

Of the past 11 pole-sitters at Pocono, 10 of them finished third or better in the race. The only exception was Tony Stewart, who finished a horrific 10th in 2009.

Second seemed to be the best a Penske driver could do from the pole. Sunday marked the 44th straight race in which a Penske driver won the pole, but not the race.

Trivia break! Who was the last Penske driver to win from the pole?

Triangle master

Denny Hamlin owns Pocono. Unfortunately, his ownership was overridden by his run of poor luck this season. He led a race-high 76 laps Sunday but finished 19th after tire and brake issues.

Hamlin now has led 574 laps in his 11-race Pocono career, already good for fifth in the track's history, passing Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson on Sunday.

More impressively, Hamlin has led 52.2 laps per Pocono start, behind only David Pearson's 54.3. Third most? Jimmie Johnson with 27.3. Quite a gap.

Trivia break! Who holds the record for most career laps led at Pocono?

Trivia break answers

1. Gordon is tied with Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart.

2. Ryan Newman won from the pole at New Hampshire in 2002.

3. Jeff Gordon is the all-time leader with 957.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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