The end of Monday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas showed us the difference between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. In the final laps, Gordon, who without question had the fastest car, came out of the pits in eighth. The four-time NASCAR champion didn't feel like he could wait a lap or two for traffic to loosen up with 19 to go and he forced the issue that resulted in a multi-car crash, in which Tony Stewart took the blame for. And Stewart was partially to blame, but if Gordon had shown just a little patience, he wouldn't have been in a difficult position, being the center car in a three-wide situation. At most tracks, that just leads to trouble and it was no different Monday.
Meanwhile, Johnson snuck through the accident on the inside and then almost rallied to beat eventual winner Denny Hamlin. If the race had been one more lap, Johnson would have won. The difference was that clear. However, before the big accident, Johnson was not forcing the issue. He knew if waited two or three laps to make a move, he would have more room and that it would still be enough time to contend for the lead. That's why he's the four-time defending champion. He knows when to push the issue and when to be patient.
That quality is not easily learned and one that Gordon may need to relearn if he has any chance of adding another championship.