NASCAR Fans Mail List February 23, 1997 Jeff Gordon gave race fans a near repeatperformance of his victory in last week's Daytona 500 by blowing past a strong Ford late in the race and rolling to victory in Sunday's NASCAR Goodwrench 400 at...
NASCAR Fans Mail List February 23, 1997
Jeff Gordon gave race fans a near repeatperformance of his victory in last week's Daytona 500 by blowing past a strong Ford late in the race and rolling to victory in Sunday's NASCAR Goodwrench 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway. The race looked to be firmly in the grip of Dale Jarrett, who led more than 300 laps in his Ford Thunderbird. But Gordon discovered a high line that gave his Chevrolet Monte Carlo more speed and he rolled past Jarrett during the 350th lap and never lost the lead.
"You never can tell what is going to happen," said Gordon, who again rolled into victory lane talking to team owner Rick Hendrick on a cellular phone. Hendrick is battling leukemia and a 15-count federal indictment relating to his automobile dealership empire. "Today, we just never gave up.
"We just found a groove high on the track just before the last caution. Dale Jarrett was strong today, and I thought we had nothing for him. I saw him slip once in turn two, and I jumped up in my seat and figured we had something for him."
Gordon, 25, recorded the 21st victory in his NASCAR Winston Cup career, tying him for 21st position on the all-time Winston Cup wins list with Jack Smith and 1973 Winston Cup champion Benny Parsons.
Gordon rode high on the 22-and 25-degree turns at Rockingham, gaining extra momentum coming out of the turns and finally putting Jarrett behind him in time to lead his first lap of the day on the 351st lap. Gordon ended up winning handily, with a margin of roughly two seconds separating the cars at the checkered flag.
"I didn't slow down at the end of the race, Jeff just picked the pace up," said Jarrett. "They hit on something that was better than what we had."
Jeff Burton tied his career-best finish by taking third place, followed by Ricky Rudd, Ricky Craven, Rusty Wallace and defending Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte. Mark Martin, who started on the pole Sunday, was looking to make it a clean sweep of the weekend events at Rockingham. Martin won Saturday's Busch series Goodwrench 200 from the pole, but a handling condition caused him to finish a lap down in 13th position.