Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo, clinched his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup championship with a sixth place finish in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Led by crew chief Robbie Loomis, the Dupont team has given...
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo, clinched his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup championship with a sixth place finish in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Led by crew chief Robbie Loomis, the Dupont team has given Chevrolet it's 21st drivers' championship in NASCAR's 53rd season. In the Modern Era (since 1972), Chevrolet has captured 18 titles in 29 years for an impressive .620 winning percentage.
Gordon's title topped an incredible season for Chevrolet, which has demonstrated its reliability, dependability, and constancy by winning five of six possible titles in NASCAR's three premier racing divisions. In 2001, Chevrolet has taken both the driver's and manufacturers' championships in Winston Cup and Busch, plus the driver's title in the Craftsman Truck Series.
For Hendrick Motorsports, this marks its eighth NASCAR driver's championship in the past seven years. The team has amassed four Winston Cup titles for Gordon (1995, 1997, 1998, and 20001), one Winston Cup title for Terry Labonte (1996), and three Craftsman Truck titles for Jack Sprague (1997, 1999, and 2001).
"I think it's a great day for Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis and I'm happy for both of those guys," said Doug Duchardt, NASCAR Group Manager, GM Racing. "After a two-year hiatus, Gordon has come back and shown he's a true champion. It's exciting to see good things happen to good people. We're really glad Robbie came over from the Petty team to be Jeff's crew chief. For Rick Hendrick, this is his eighth championship in seven years - all in Chevrolets. It just shows what a strong organization they have and what a great infrastructure he's built that allows Hendrick Motorsports to be so successful."
With this win, Gordon joins Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt as only the third driver to win four or more NASCAR Winston Cup championships.
Rick Hendrick, Owner of Hendrick Motorsports, comments on the title:
"This is great. When you start the series you never think you can win one of these things. And then when you win the first one, you never believe it until you've won it. And now to win five (Winston Cup titles), it's unbelievable. These guys in our organization have worked so hard. It's been a heck of a year for us. Eight championships in seven years is hard to believe as tough as this sport it. And it's going to get tougher. Today's racing was some of the best I've seen."
On the $3.6 million dollar prize from RJ Reynolds: "It's already been spent on these cars. This is a great deal. A championship in anything is hard to come by. To do it multiple times is a great. I'm proud of this team. These guys started all over. They came back and did it - got back to the top of the mountain."
On Chevrolet's sweep this season: "It has been a good year for Chevrolet and I really appreciate all their support. And I think it's going to be an unbelievable year next year. The Dodges really came on strong at the end of the year and you know the Pontiacs are going to be good. They won today. The fans have a lot to look forward to."
"This is too good to be true. I just have to thank God everyday for all the blessings that me and this entire team have been given. Without the perseverance that God gives us we wouldn't have been able to get from last year to this year the way we did. I'm just so proud of them. These guys are just awesome the way they came together. The effort that they put out each week and the racecars they gave us were just awesome. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports is extremely special to me."
How does it feel to be the only driver to join Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty ever to win four championships in Winston Cup racing? "It's starting to sink in a little bit. Today was a good day for us. I'm just glad we did it by running up front like this Dupont team is capable of doing. I think it's going to take a little while for that number four to sink in. I look at who had three, who had two, who had one, and then who had seven. It's an unbelievable league of company to be with."
On winning four championships in nine seasons - could you reach seven? "I don't know how those guys did it. There's just so much into being champion. It just takes so much out of you. I don't think we're ready to think about seven. Maybe we can just start thinking about five and not try to get too far ahead of ourselves."
On the $3.6 million dollar prize "I just can't thank RJReynolds and the Winston brand enough. They are very special people and we're really glad they're part of our sport and for all they do for NASCAR. I also appreciate Chevrolet, Dupont, GMAC, Frito-Lay, and all they do for this team."
Other athletes like Michael Jordan what to be the best at what they do. Do you? "Have you asked them that question? I wonder how they would answer. I'm not one to go out and say I'm the greatest and I want to be the best. I want to have respect and I want people to think I have talents, but I just look at this sport as unique to any other sport out there. It's not like a pitcher standing on that mound. That ball is in his hands. I look at Michael Jordan a little different. No doubt about it that he is the best - an awesome basketball player. He's the best in the NBA, but he's not winning because the team is not there. When they get more experience, they'll be winning. If you ask him whether he'd rather be a great player or winning, I guarantee you he'd rather be winning. I just want to be a part of the greatest team. We did show that this year."
How did Dale Earnhardt show you how to win championships? "I got the chance to just race side-by-side with him. I learned a lot from him on the racetrack. In 1995, we went for the championship. Even though I watched him race for championships before, I got to see first-hand what it was like battling with him for a title. He's so good at knowing when to win and when to bring it home for the points. Some guys have a special knack for knowing how to get the most he can out of the car every time they're out there on the racetrack. He looked at the big picture and he wanted to be an eight-time champion. He had seven of them because he knew what he was doing. I don't know how the heck we won that championship in 1995. I don't know how we won it. He knew where he could shine and he knew where he just had to get all that he could. He never gave up. I learned a lot from him. Winning races is great, but there's nothing like winning championships."
On being a leader in the garage after the passing of Dale Earnhardt "I realized after winning my first championship, that there are responsibilities and expectations that come along with that. Whether you want them or not, they're there. I love being a champion and so I've learned how to enjoy the responsibilities that come along. I want to be a good champion and represent the sport the best way I know how. And I'm comfortable with that. If I wasn't, I'd retire now."
"Everybody knows that to be able to accomplish things always starts with a great owner. You look at Rick Hendrick's success away from the track and you can see that he knows how to do it. This is his eighth championship in seven years and that's pretty impressive.
"Jeff Gordon is the best. The thing that impresses me is not how he handles days like today, but how he handles seasons like we had last year from his points. It's really something to think this is Jeff's fourth championship since 1995. That is really impressive to be able to do that in that short of time. I can't say enough good things about him. It's not so much as what he does in the racecar as he does outside of the racecar and how he handles people, fans, our team, and NASCAR.
"Jeff is not a very tall guy, but when he put on that fire suit and walked up to me when were getting ready to practice at Daytona, he got taller than Michael Jordan. It was pretty intimidating. We just worked together and grew. Through our failures and struggles last year, I think that really got us to the level where we could win races like the September race at Richmond last year. This championship is the first championship that shows so much teamwork. When you have good people and those things around you, it makes your job that much easier.
"If you look at this team at the end of 1999, the crew chief left, the pit crew left, the head fabricator left, the chief mechanic left. There was really nobody there but just a few guys. Robbie Loomis was man enough to take the challenge and come on. I thought it would take longer than this to build a championship team back. But it just clicked and sometimes it's just meant to be. When I saw Jeff Gordon the first time and I couldn't get it out of my head how he drove that Busch car. I don't know how anybody could ever say that Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis are not champions.
"I see Jeff Gordon at 30 years old and with the chemistry of this team, I think they're going to win a lot of championships. I think it's going to be extremely hard because you see guys out there that are good that show up every week. I think we'll surely be in the hunt next year. I think we're going to come back just like we are now. I think we could win seven championships. That's our goal."
"Hendrick Motorsports has such great resources. A guy like Robbie Loomis has great leadership and he's a great crew chief. He and I click really well. Even though we had a lot of changes, we had new guys that are young that had never been a part of a championship. We also had a lot of guys on there that either had won with us or with other teams. They were able to gel with each other. That motivated me. I had no idea it was going to end up this good, but it's been a great year."
-Team Monte Carlo-