Jeff Gordon firmly in NASCAR record books

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - With all eyes focused on a tight championship battle and the final race of "King" Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon made a quiet debut at the 1992 Winston Cup season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway where he finished 31st. ...

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - With all eyes focused on a tight championship battle and the final race of "King" Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon made a quiet debut at the 1992 Winston Cup season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway where he finished 31st. Now, after 250 races, Gordon has secured his place in the NASCAR history books and has a future that is still as bright as the colors on his DuPont Chevrolet. Gordon, 29, has claimed three Winston Cup championships and 52 career wins since he took rookie-of-the-year honors in 1993. He is ninth on the all-time victory list and has won at 17 of the 21 tracks currently on the schedule -- a Winston Cup record. "I'm amazed at what we've been able to accomplish in such a short time," Gordon said. "Each year we identify our weaknesses and try to improve on them. "We were good early on the superspeedways, so we concentrated on short tracks. When we won on short tracks, we worked on our road course program to improve in that area." They "improved" to a record six consecutive road course victories and a tie for first on the all-time road course victory list with Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace. From 1995 through 1999, Gordon led the circuit each season in victories including 13 wins in 1998 to tie a modern-era record set by Petty. Also in 1998, Gordon achieved four straight victories -- a modern-era record he shares with Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, Mark Martin and Bill Elliott. Gordon and Elliott have the distinction of being the only two drivers who have won the Winston Million, a challenge offered between 1985 and 1997 which required a win in three of four specific races to capture a $1 million bonus. Gordon captured the 1997 Winston Million by winning the Southern 500, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Daytona 500. That year, Gordon became the youngest champion of the Daytona 500. In 1999, he became the youngest two-time champion of NASCAR's most prestigious event. Gordon also captured the "No Bull 5" million-dollar bonus, which replaced the Winston Million, the following year with his record fourth consecutive Southern 500 victory. Gordon won't be thinking of those million-dollar days as he returns to Martinsville Speedway as the defending champion of the NAPA Autocare 500 where the difference in qualifying from first to last can be as little as 250 thousandths of a second. With a fraction of a second so critical, one little mistake can be the difference from a pole to a provisional. And taking a provisional is one thing Gordon has never done in his Winston Cup career. "It's easier to win a race from the front than from the back," Gordon said. "Traffic is tough, especially here at Martinsville, so it's in your best interest to start near the front. "Qualifying is so tough at a Winston Cup event. We should be proud that we've never had to use a provisional. "We should be proud of everything we've accomplished."

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace , Richard Petty , Bobby Allison , Harry Gant , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin