Gordon can only look ahead By Mark Talkington HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 21, 1999) As if two-time defending NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon's season had not been odd enough, one of the rarest of occurrences for the Hendrick Motorsports No.
Gordon can only look ahead By Mark Talkington
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 21, 1999) As if two-time defending NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon's season had not been odd enough, one of the rarest of occurrences for the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 team brought an anticlimactic end to Gordon's eighth season.
Standing next to his steaming DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet while his departing Rainbow Warriors worked to no avail to get it back in running condition inside the Atlanta Motor Speedway garage, Gordon speculated that a broken rod was the culprit in his lap-181 departure from the event.
"We haven't had engine problems all year," Gordon said. "It happened on a good day though. At 190 miles per hour and with some guys racing three-wide out there, it's nothing I want to mess around with. Those guys are out there driving not too smart."
Gordon, who qualified 16th, said it was difficult to get a handle on the track all day as he struggled to move up to the leaders.
"I knew the track conditions were tight," he said. "But I didn't know they were that tight. We made a lot of adjustments today. We weren't really prepared for this at the end of the season."
Surprising words from the defending winner of the race? Not particularly. Especially considering the adversity he personally has had to overcome in recent weeks. It started with the departure in September of the crew chief who led him to three series titles -- Ray Evernham. Evernham was soon followed out the door by many of the crew members who were a key to that success.
What may be surprising is that Sunday's 36th-place finish in the NAPA 500 was just Gordon's sixth-worst finish of the year. It was the worst, however, since new crew chief Brian Whitesell replaced Evernham, helping Gordon run to victory in the first two October races, at Martinsville and Rockingham. He failed to finish higher than 10th since then.
"We were fortunate to win the first two out of the box" with Whitesell, he said. "When things aren't clicking and there's distractions, it's hard for things to go your way. I'm looking forward about our efforts and everything we're going to have for the 2000 season.
"We've been dealt some things we didn't want. I think we've done a pretty good job and I think we're going to be pretty strong."