Gordon after tie with Petty -- but is it? By Shawn A. Akers HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 6, 1998) Should he win Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon may feel like Roger Maris: a man with an asterisk next to his name. RICHARD ...
Gordon after tie with Petty -- but is it? By Shawn A. Akers
HAMPTON, Ga. (Nov. 6, 1998) Should he win Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon may feel like Roger Maris: a man with an asterisk next to his name.
RICHARD PETTY Prior to this past season's onslaught by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Maris held the record for most home runs in a single season in Major League Baseball, with 61. He did that in 162 games, however, while Babe Ruth hit 60 in 1927, but only in 154 games. It was a fact that would haunt Maris for the rest of his life. With a win on Sunday, Gordon can tie Richard Petty for the most victories in one season in the modern era of NASCAR Winston Cup racing with 13. Petty, however, set that mark in only 30 races in 1975, while Gordon will have had 33 races in which to do it.
JEFF GORDON The way Petty looks at it, no matter what Gordon does on Sunday, his record will still stand. "A record is a record, but we did ours in 30 races," the seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion said. "We didn't have a 34th race to shoot at another one, a 14th. We just had 30 races. "I did my thing in '75 and he's doing his thing in '98. It's no big deal. The competition is no different now. The competition is the same from the first race they ever ran or the 10th race or the 100th race. It doesn't make any difference." Petty had his heyday in the 1970s, highlighted by the incredible season of 1975. He also won 10 races in 1974. His most wins came in 1967 when he won 27 times, but he also made 48 starts. Dale Earnhardt won 11 races on his way to his third NASCAR Winston Cup championship, in 1987. Bill Elliott won an incredible 11 races in 1985, but finished second in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. And then there was Darrell Waltrip, who, while driving for Junior Johnson, won 12 races each in 1981 and 1982, when he won back-to-back NASCAR Winston Cup championships. Gordon earned his 12th victory of the 1998 season in the AC/Delco 400 last Sunday at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C., on the same day he wrapped his second-straight NASCAR Winston Cup championship. It was his third NASCAR Winston Cup title in the last four years.
In a word, Gordon has just been absolutely dominant in 1998 in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. But then, it takes a lot to impress the likes of Petty. "I think he's (Gordon) been phenomenal (this year)," Petty said. "But then I turn around and go back three or four years and say, 'Well, what was Dale Earnhardt doing?' Go back a little further and what did Bill Elliott do? "Go back and look at a couple of years there and what did Rusty Wallace do? Go back to those two or three years when Darrell Waltrip won so many races. Jeff Gordon's not the first one to go through a dominant spell. He's not the first one to be the leader. He won't be the last. That's the system. That's just the way it is." Gordon will start Sunday's season-ending race from the 21st position after a mediocre qualifying effort on Friday afternoon. Don't expect him to stay in the middle of the pack for long, however, as he almost always has found a way to get to the front at superspeedways. "We're going to give it a shot, and that would cap off an awesome year for us," Gordon said. "We've already wrapped up the championship, and that's a lot of pressure off of us. That happened last Sunday, and we won the race. Now we can go out and try to get another one. Either way, it's been a fantastic year for us. We've been blessed."
Source: NASCAR Online