If you look strictly at the numbers alone, Jeff Gordon’s 2012 season was hardly one of his best, but it was not without several significant achievements, either.
Gordon finished 10th in the final NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings, his worst finish since 1995 and only the third time in 20 full seasons that he hasn’t finished ninth or better.
He got turned on his roof in the Budweiser Shootout, lost an engine in his normally reliable No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the Daytona 500, and had teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. inadvertently pop one of Gordon’s tires at Bristol.
Worse yet, a hung throttle at Chicagoland Speedway virtually ended Gordon’s chance at fifth championship before it even began.
Then there were a series of boys-have-at-it encounters with Clint Bowyer, one of which cost Gordon a victory at Martinsville, with another one costing Bowyer any shot at a championship,
But the four-time Sprint Cup champion had some epic moments as well, including victories at Pocono in August and at the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the first win for Gordon or any Hendrick driver at the South Florida track.
Gordon ended the year with 87 career Sprint Cup race victories, a total that trails only NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty and David Pearson.
In between Daytona and Homestead, Gordon rallied from 22nd in points in mid-June to narrowly make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the eighth time in nine years. In one remarkable stretch from the August Bristol race until Talladega, Gordon finished second or third six times in seven races.
And his year ended on a high note, as he was selected the recipient of the 2012 National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award, for outstanding contributions to NASCAR over his illustrious career.
“This is an incredible honor,” Gordon said last week in Las Vegas, where he accepted the award. “I've been coming to the banquet for the last 20 years, maybe 19, I guess. I've seen this award go to legends of our sport, those who make a mark and are recognized for their contribution. I'm deeply honored, proud of the work I do on and off the track and this is fantastic.”
For more on Gordon’s thoughts on his season, check out the video of his speech at Friday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet in Las Vegas.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.