By - Nancy Schilke - Motorsport.com
Jeff Gordon wrapped up the 2001 Winston Cup championship today at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He needed to finish 32nd or better today to win his fourth Winston Cup championship. Going into the race, Gordon commented: "Where and when we clinch makes no difference to me, just as long as we do."
Gordon finished in sixth place today. He clinched the championship with four laps to go.
Gordon made a fantastic save during the second caution when he went way wide onto the grass in pit lane. Once again the cars were squeezing each other as they exited their pit boxes. Gordon showed what it takes to be a champion as he avoided what could have been another disaster.
"I am blown away, just absolutely blown away that this is our fourth time doing this. It seems like the first time all over again. Each one gets sweeter. All the guys on the Dupont team were just incrediable this year," exclaimed Gordon.
"Boy these things (championships) are hard to get," siad Rick Henrick. "These guys, they worked hard. Everybody in the organization has worked hard, the truck deal and now this deal. It has been a great year."
Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon's team owner, now has five Winston Cup team titles. After a two-year slump, the team who previously won four in a row, is back on top. Jeff Gordon, won in 1995, Terry Labonte won in 1996, Gordon repeated in 1997 and 1998.
Ray Evernham, now the factory Dodge team owner was Crew Chief for Gordon's three wins and Gary DeHart, Crew Chief, for Labonte. This is the first ever Winston Cup championship for Crew Chief, Robbie Loomis.
"Feels great, as I have said all along, this championship belongs to Jeff [Gordon]. We have done what we could to help him win it," said a relived Robbie Loomis. "Fortunate to be part of these guys."
Leading the stats for the most driver championships is Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Richard Petty with seven each. Richard Petty, Richard Childress and Junior Johnson have won team championships six times. With Lee Petty's three championships, the Petty family leads the charts with a total of nine. Can Gordon win four more times and place himself at the top of the driver championship and give Hendrick Motorsports a tie with the Petty family for team championships?
The driver of the DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo burst onto the NASCAR scene as a non-stock car driver arriving from open-wheel racing. His racing career began when he was a five-year-old in go-karts. Over the years, he amassed over 600 wins and won seven national championships. On his 16th birthday, he was granted a racing license by USAC and became the youngest-ever driver. At 19, Gordon won the USAC National Midget championship and followed it up by winning the Silver Crown the next year along with several awards.
In 1991, Gordon arrived in the Busch series with Bill Davis Racing and his first win was at Atlanta in 1992. He caught the eye of Rick Hendrick who signed the young Gordon to a contract that year for the 1993 Winston Cup season. His success was quick as he won the 1993 Rookie-of-the-year.
His first career victory in Winston Cup came in May of 1994 at Charlotte. To prove that he was not just a "flash-in-the-pan", Gordon won the inaugural race at Indianapolis that same year. And his success carried him and the team into their first championship in 1995.
Congratulations to Jeff and Brooke Gordon, Rick Hendrick, Robbie Loomis and the Hendrick Motorsports Team.