700 and Counting

Curtis Harvey May 14, 2013 Comments Off on 700 and Counting

1995-nascar-6In 20 plus years and 700 starts Jeff Gordon has gone from “Wonder Boy” to “Big Daddy”, and has done so without becoming an “also ran”.

Gordon’s 700 career starts after last Saturday’s Southern 500 puts him 15th all-time in starts, but being consecutive, is the second longest streak – longest by far without ever missing a single race. Thing is, most drivers don’t stay competitive that long. Take a look at Bobby Labonte, the 2000 Champ had his 700th start two weeks ago, and the Coke 600 will be his 700th consecutive, but he’s garnered almost no attention for it.

Why?

He’s had 2 Top Five’s in the last 6 years while driving for small teams after leaving Joe Gibbs Racing.

Gordon gave his 700th start meaning on Saturday by finishing 3rd, his 300th Top Five finish. To put that into perspective: 42.85% of all the races he’s competed in have been Top Five finishes. He’s had 10 or more every season since 1995 with the lone exception of 2005 – which is also the one year he finished outside the Top Ten in points after missing the Chase.

Rusty Wallace is also just ahead of Gordon in starts, 706. Rusty was successful til the end, is in the Hall of Fame too, but only had 202 Top Fives in 25 years.

The 300 Top Fives for Gordon is fourth all time, behind Richard Petty (1184 starts, 555 Top Fives), Bobby Allison (718, 336), and David Pearson (584, 301). Clearly Pearson’s Top Five mark is the most impressive considering how many fewer races he ran compared to the others, but the stats put Gordon in some Legendary company.

For all of you wondering how Jimmie Johnson compares, he will someday be thrown in the same mix. In 410 starts, 5-Time has 172 Top Fives (41.95%) in his 11 year Sprint Cup Career, but only 4 years younger than Gordon most likely won’t have as many years in his in the books when he retires.

SHOWTIME Southern 500 - PracticeAs Gordon has gotten older his performance has declined compared to the 90’s domination, but he has maintained his spot as one of the top drivers every year. While he isn’t found in victory lane too often, he usually finishes races strong, and runs up front more often than not.

With retirement closing in, Gordon refuses to put a window of when it’ll happen. So until then let’s all appreciate his talent and longevity while we can

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