Gordon's year a tale of good, bad By Tim Packman NEW YORK (Nov. 30, 2000) Jeff Gordon had an "un-Gordonesque" NASCAR 2000 season. But was it really all that bad? Though not on the same standard as his prior years, it was still a pretty good...
Gordon's year a tale of good, bad
By Tim Packman
NEW YORK (Nov. 30, 2000) Jeff Gordon had an "un-Gordonesque" NASCAR 2000 season. But was it really all that bad?
Though not on the same standard as his prior years, it was still a pretty good year for him in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The No. 24 DuPont Automotive Refinishes Chevrolet driver finished ninth in points, had three victories, four Bud Poles, 11 top-5s and 22 top-10s on the way to winning more than $2.7 million.
When he gets up from the prestigious top-10 table at the series Dec. 8 banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria, he will pocket another $273,000 from the NASCAR points fund.
The Hendrick Motorsports-owned team finished in a top-10 points position for the seventh consecutive year. Since '94, only Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace have accomplished the same feat. Earnhardt was the only one of the three to capture a championship during that time period, which he did in '94. Gordon has earned three championship trophies since then, in 1995, '97 and '98.
If he was going to clear the mantle for a fourth trophy, this year was going to be a tough one to do so. He had his work cut out for him right from the season-opening Daytona 500.
There was almost an entire new team of "Rainbow Warrior" pit crew members to work with. There was a mass defection of his championship crew to 1999 champion Dale Jarrett's team. Robbie Loomis was brought on board as Gordon's new crew chief after Ray Evernham, the crew chief who helped develop Gordon from a rookie to a champion, departed prior to the end of the '99 season. And the team had a brand new Chevrolet Monte Carlo design to figure out as well.
After finishing the Daytona event five laps down in 34th position, Gordon had an uphill struggle toward the top. He finished the next race, at Rockingham, in 10th and propelled himself 12 positions to 22nd in points. A 28th-place finish at the next in Las Vegas dropped him down one to 23rd.
Three consecutive top-10 finishes moved him to 10th in points. It looked like the "Rainbow Warriors" team was on the right track and maybe they were getting back that championship form.
A 25th-place finish, 14 laps down, at Texas dropped the team to 12th in the points.
Two races later at Talladega, Gordon started 36th and roared his way to Victory Lane. His first victory of the season ascended him to seventh in points, 221 out of first. The Gordon of championship form was starting to show.
Trouble was, seventh was the highest points position he would see the rest of the season.
Through the next 20 races he added two more victories, had six top-5s and 11 top-10s. He dropped to 10th in points and remained there for 14 of those 20 events.
His streak of five consecutive road-course victories came to an end with Steve Park's first series victory, at Watkins Glen. During that span Gordon also registered his two devastating DNFs.
The one race that could have served as a panoramic snapshot of his season was the October event at Charlotte. He started on the pole but wrecked out of the event 164 laps short of the checkered flag and registered a 39th-place finish.
He headed to the last five races one point behind Ward Burton, the ninth-place driver. With Gordon's chances of a championship long gone, he was now fighting for a top-10 finish.
Through the final handful of races he achieved three top-5s and had top-10 finishes in all five events. That gave him a solid ninth in final standings, 221 points ahead of Burton and only 49 behind eighth-place driver Mark Martin.
Gordon will be sitting at the table in New York, he will be featured in the video presentation, get to walk across the stage, get his check and make a speech. Those are the privileges reserved for the top-10 finishers.
Though he will not be the last to walk across the stage, get a $3 million check and make the final speech like Bobby Labonte, this season's champion, Gordon will still be at the table.
He knows the routine. After all, he's been sitting there for the last six years. -nascar.com-