2012: Milestones In The Road

Jeff Gordon enters his 20th season in NASCAR's highest division in 2012. For those who can remember Gordon rim riding around midwestern dirt tracks in a sprint car, the passage of time may be difficult to comprehend. Due to his level of success and longevity in NASCAR, Gordon can attain several milestones in the 2012 season.

Although some still remember the rookie in the rainbow-colored #24 car with the yellow stripe on the back, Gordon's career has stood the test of time. His first Cup series race came when George Bush was President -- the FIRST George Bush. In all, his career has spanned four different presidential administrations. Consider that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was a 3rd grader in Dobbs Ferry, New York, when Gordon drove his first Cup series race. Or that Miley Cyrus wasn't even born when Gordon made his debut on a cold day at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

As much as Gordon has accomplished in the Cup series, there remains a steadfast desire for more victories and championships. To quote Jimmy Buffett, "you lust for the future, but treasure the past."

Following are the potential milestones in 2012:

  • Running at the finish Gordon has been running at the finish in 565 of his 653 career races (14th all-time). He'll surpass Dale Earnhardt's career total by running at the finish just 17 more times. He can move into 10th on the all-time list by running at the finish of at least 28 races this season.

  • Top-10 finishes Gordon has 396 top-10 finishes in his career -- good enough for 5th on the all-time list. He needs 4 more to reach the 400 milestone, and 33 to pass Dale Earnhardt for 4th all-time. However, that milestone will likely be on hold until 2013.
    **Gordon has scored at least 14 top-10 finishes for 18 consecutive seasons. Should he score at least 14 top-10's in 2012, he would surpass Richard Petty for the most consecutive NASCAR seasons with at least 14 top-10's.
    **Gordon would become the second youngest driver to record 400 top-10 finishes. Richard Petty was 34 years old when he recorded his 400th top-10 finish.

  • Top-5 finishes With 287 top-5 finishes entering 2012, Gordon is 4th on the all-time list. He needs 15 more top-5 finishes to pass David Pearson for 3rd in history. However, just twice in the last seven years has Gordon scored more than 14 top-5's in a single season. He would become the second youngest driver to reach 300 top-5 finishes (R.Petty was 34 yrs old).

  • Pole positions Gordon enters 2012 with 70 career pole positions. He is the active leader in poles, and has the most poles in NASCAR's modern era (post-1972). He is currently 43 poles behind David Pearson for 2nd on the all-time list and likely will retire from the sport in 3rd place. However, a pole in 2012 would tie him with Pearson for the most consecutive seasons (20) with at least one pole position.

  • Laps led With 22,579 laps led during his career, Gordon ranks 7th on the all-time list. He needs to lead 552 laps to pass Darrell Waltrip for 6th all-time. Just once in the last 11 years has Gordon led fewer than 552 laps in a single season.

  • Total laps Gordon has completed 187,883 laps in his Cup series career. He's less than 10,000 laps behind Bobby Allison for the 14th highest total. Gordon has completed more than 10,000 laps in 10 out of the last 11 seasons.

  • Lead lap finishes Gordon ranks 2nd all-time with 467 lead lap finishes in 653 career starts. Mark Martin (523) is the all-time leader and will continue adding to his total in 2012.

  • Career starts With 653 career starts, Gordon ranks 18th all-time. By starting all 36 races in 2012, Gordon would surpass Dale Jarrett (668) and Dale Earnhardt (676) for 16th on the all-time list at the end of the season. In 2013, he would exceed 700 starts and surpass Buddy Baker (700) and Rusty Wallace (706).

  • Wins on speedways Gordon is NASCAR's all-times wins leader (70) on tracks 1-mile or longer. Of Richard Petty's 200 wins, just 62 came on tracks 1-mile or longer.

  • Wins on short tracks Gordon has 15 career victories on tracks less than 1-mile in length (most among active drivers). Two more victories will move him into a tie for 19th with Speedy Thompson.

  • Total victories Gordon has 85 career victories -- the most in NASCAR's modern era. Although Bobby Allison also won 85 times in the Cup series, NASCAR officially credits Allison with 84 wins, thus putting Gordon in sole possession of third place on the all-time list. He is 20 wins behind David Pearson's career total of 105.

  • Championships This is the main source of resentment for scores of Gordon fans due to the Chase for the Championship. Gordon has four career titles and would tie Jimmie Johnson with 5 titles (3rd all-time) if he can claim the 2012 Sprint Cup.

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