BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 20, 1998) If you thought you'd never see the day, Jeff Gordon has left you in disbelief. And you're in good company. If you think that nobody could have that much talent, success, luck or whatever you...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 20, 1998) If you thought you'd never see the day, Jeff Gordon has left you in disbelief. And you're in good company.
If you think that nobody could have that much talent, success, luck or whatever you attribute it to, you stand corrected again ... and again.
Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway Gordon will attempt to leave the world -- and even himself -- dumbfounded once again as he tries to win his fifth consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup Series race, a feat never accomplished by any driver in NASCAR's modern era, in the Goody's Headache Powder 500.
"I love going to Bristol, especially at night," Gordon said. "The fans are fired up, and I think the drivers get real fired up for that race, also. I've never won the night race there. We're going to try to put a good combination together and keep our nose clean, which is not always easy to do at Bristol."
Six other drivers had preceded Gordon in winning four in a row: Cale Yarborough in 1976, Darrell Waltrip (1981), Dale Earnhardt (1987), Harry Gant (1991), Bill Elliott (1992) and Mark Martin (1993). All failed to win five straight.
Richard Petty set the all-time NASCAR Winston Cup mark with an astounding 10 straight wins in 1967. Ironically, in 1971, the year before the "modern era" began, both Petty and arch-rival Bobby Allison swapped five-race winning streaks -- and each stopped the other's run. Is it conceivable that Gordon will break yet another record in NASCAR's premier series, and arguably the most competitive series in the world - in less then six years and at age 27?
Well, after Gordon won rookie of the year in 1993, then the Coca-Cola 600 and the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994; fans might have thought it a fluke. When he drove his DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet to seven victories and the 1995 NASCAR Winston Cup championship, fans might have thought that he better get ready for a dose of reality.
Now it appears that those who had doubts are themselves the ones getting that dose of reality ... and the reality is that Gordon is virtually unstoppable.
"Who knows, he may win them all," said Martin, who finished second to Gordon for three straight races recently, and who has had a marvelous summer, for most, only to fall to 97 points behind in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings.
In 1996, Gordon won 10 races and was runner-up for the title to teammate Terry Labonte. In 1997, Gordon won 10 races, the Winston Million, the Busch Clash, The Winston all-star race and his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
After 21 of 33 scheduled races in 1998, Gordon has won eight times, has sat on six Bud Poles, won the $1 million Winston "No Bull 5" bonus while becoming the first two-time winner of the Brickyard 400, the second victory in the streak of wins that ties him for the record of four consecutive scores. His run could be called astonishing.
"They have had plenty of luck but they're plenty good, make no mistake about it," said Dale Jarrett, who has spent most of this season chasing Gordon. "We are going to have to keep working really hard to beat him."
Now the series moves to Bristol, where Gordon is the only driver to have won four consecutive spring races. Now, Gordon will become the only driver in the modern era to win five consecutive races if he wins on Saturday night.
"When we got to Michigan, everybody kept saying 'four in a row, four in a row,'" Gordon said. "We thought more about winning our first race at Michigan.
"Now, if we win at Bristol, it will be five in a row. Bristol has been a good track for us and we're going there just hoping for a good finish."
Despite his mind-boggling season, Gordon still remains reserved and realistic, calling a race at Bristol like playing Russian Roulette.
"You have no idea when the wreck is going to happen," Gordon said. "You have no idea if you're going to be able to miss it if it does happen in front of you."
It was an accident such as that that took Gordon out of the 1997 Goody's 500, allowing Jarrett to score his first NASCAR Winston Cup short track win.
Still, in 11 races at Bristol, Gordon has four wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes. His average finish at the .533-mile oval is 6.3. However, Gordon has never won the Goody's 500.
"The primary concern at Bristol is finishing the race and keeping all four fenders on it," Gordon said. "If we're in position at the and, then we'll think about going for the win.
"This crew doesn't give up. We don't ever give up until the checkered flag drops."
It's a good thing because Martin, Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Bobby Labonte, who occupy the four positions behind him in the point standings, certainly aren't slowing down either.
Currently, Gordon leads Martin by 97 in the point standings and has 15 top-fives and 16 top-1Os for an average finish of 7.85.
In his NASCAR Winston Cup career, 177 starts, Gordon has 37 wins. That equates to a wins-per-start ratio of 1 to 4.689. That is second to the late Tim Flock, who had 40 wins in 187 starts for a 1 to 4.675 ratio. With his fifth straight victory Gordon would leap past Flock to the pinnacle of that accomplishment.
In addition, Gordon has amassed 22 Bud Poles, has finished in the top-five 50 percent of the time, in the top-10, 62 percent of the time and has earned more than $20.5 million -- second on the all-time motorsports money won list.
Source: NASCAR Online