Gordon looking for improvement at Atlanta HAMPTON, Ga. (March 2, 1998) - Over the course of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, Jeff Gordon left himself little room for improvement. But ask him if there was any one track that was...
Gordon looking for improvement at Atlanta
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 2, 1998) - Over the course of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, Jeff Gordon left himself little room for improvement.
But ask him if there was any one track that was his team's Achilles' heel during his record-breaking championship year, and he'll give you an emphatic answer: Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"We definitely don't want to fall to pieces like we did in Atlanta last year," Gordon said.
Gordon is referring to two dismal finishes that his DuPont Automotive Refinishes team experienced at the Georgia superspeedway. In the PRIMESTAR 500 last Match, a blown engine on the 59th lap relegated him to a 42nd-place finish -- last in the field. In the NAPA 500 in November, Gordon struggled to a 17th-place finish after a practice crash on pit road forced his team to have a back-up car brought from the team shop in Harrisburg, N.C., less than 24 hours before the start of the race.
While Gordon's finish in the fall race was good enough for him to capture his second NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship in three years, he was still upset about his team's performance.
"We know where our problems were in both races," he said. "In March, we had a motor problem, but we identified what went wrong and, hopefully, it won't happen again. The problem in November was my fault, and I want to make sure that doesn't happen again." Gordon's problems in 1997 were typical of a hit-or-miss pattern of performances at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 11 career starts at the recently-reconfigured track, he has finished in the top-five four times, including a victory in the 1995 PRIMESTAR 500, but he also has finished outside of the top-30 on four occasions.
Despite his complaints, Gordon is obviously very pleased about the outcome following the season-ending race at Atlanta in November. "The second championship is great," he said. "It probably feels even better than the first. Everyone on the team was just so relieved after the NAPA 500 that it was finally over and the pressure was off."
And don't think for a minute the DuPont team plans to rest on it accomplishments and lose sight of its goals in 1998. "When you look at 1997, you wonder how we can top it," Gordon said. "We had a great year, but there are definitely areas to improve upon. I don't know if we can win 10 races again or as much money, but we'll be there to compete for another championship. And we are concentrating on eliminating the DNFs, like the one we had in the PRIMESTAR 500 last March."
Gordon, whose 14-point edge over Dale Jarrett and 29-point lead over Mark Martin enabled him to capture the closest three-way championship battle in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history, will get another chance at conquering Atlanta Motor Speedway in the 1998 PRIMESTAR 500 on Sunday.
Source: NASCAR Online