Atlanta: Jeff Gordon preview

Profound Memories For Gordon At Atlanta HAMPTON, Ga. - When Jeff Gordon looks back on all the memorable moments during his racing career, there is one track that keeps popping up - Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon's first NASCAR Busch Series ...

Profound Memories For Gordon At Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. - When Jeff Gordon looks back on all the memorable moments during his racing career, there is one track that keeps popping up - Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Gordon's first NASCAR Busch Series victory came at Atlanta on March 14, 1992. Later that year he made his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series start here, which happened to be Richard Petty's final race. He has also clinched three of his four Winston Cup championships at Atlanta (1995, 1997, 2001).

"I ran my first Cup race here at the end of 1992 and was able to see how Richard (Petty) handled all the media and fans in his final race," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "I never thought we would be clinching championships here in the years to come.

"But I guess what started it all was my first Busch Series win. It was such a thrill to compete and win against guys like Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant and Davey Allison. Rick Hendrick watched that race too and I guess that's how the 24 team began.

"I've heard that he thought I was on the verge of wrecking on every lap during that race because the car was so loose. Looking back, I probably should have ended up in the wall. But on that day, I didn't know any better."

The March event at Atlanta last season also provided one of the most memorable and closest races to date when rookie Kevin Harvick held off a last-lap charge by Gordon for his first Winston Cup victory. The 0.006 second margin of victory was the closest of any race since July, 1993 at Talladega.

"When I crossed the line I thought I had won," said Gordon. "But it was great for Kevin, Richard Childress Racing and all the fans for that team to get back into victory lane."

The track was reconfigured in the fall of 1997 when a quad-oval was added to the front stretch. Despite not being as big as Daytona or Talladega, Atlanta Motor Speedway has the fastest average speeds of any track on the Winston Cup circuit.

"The track has a lot of grip and you don't get off the gas that much," said Gordon. "You really feel the speed when you hit the track for the first couple of laps, but then you become used to it.

"You go through the corner with the bumps thinking, 'Wow, this is fast. If anything goes wrong, it's gonna hurt.'"

Recently, little has gone wrong for Gordon at Atlanta. In the last seven races here he's recorded one pole, two wins and six top-10 finishes. Overall, he has one pole, three wins, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 19 career starts at Atlanta.

"Lately, we've hit on the right combination of speed and handling here," said Gordon. "We've been lucky to be in a position where we've just have to fine tune after we unload the car off the truck."

If the No. 24 continues to fine tune the car just right, Gordon could add another memorable Atlanta moment to his list - first win as defending 2001 Winston Cup champion.

-pprp/jg-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Richard Petty , Harry Gant , Mark Martin , Davey Allison
Teams Richard Childress Racing