Henrick Motorsport Season Review

Gordon caps great season for Hendrick HARRISBURG, N.C. (Nov. 10, 1998) Jeff Gordon's victory in Sunday's rain-soaked NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway provided a fitting end to a historic season for Hendrick Motorsports, which has solidified...

Gordon caps great season for Hendrick

HARRISBURG, N.C. (Nov. 10, 1998) Jeff Gordon's victory in Sunday's rain-soaked NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway provided a fitting end to a historic season for Hendrick Motorsports, which has solidified its place in history by becoming the first organization to capture four consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships.

Gordon, who had already clinched his third Winston Cup title by winning the ACDelco 400 at North Carolina Speedway last weekend, still had some incentive heading into Sunday's season finale in Atlanta. By taking one more checkered flag in '98, the 27-year-old driver of the No. 24 DuPont/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet knew he'd equal the modern NASCAR Winston Cup record of 13 wins in a season, a remarkable benchmark established originally by Richard Petty in 1975.

After seven hours of rain delay and 221 (of the scheduled 325) laps around Atlanta's lightning-fast 1.54-mile quad oval, Gordon had overcome both the elements and Dale Jarrett to match The King's mark of 13 victories. Like he had on so many occasions during the '98 campaign, Gordon parlayed power and speed during a late-race run that saw him overtake Jarrett on lap 215 en route to the win. Prior to 1998, Gordon had never won a race in October or November.

Sunday's NAPA 500 victory gave him three (out of a possible six) wins over the final two months of the season. Before the monumental wins in Atlanta and Rockingham, Gordon kick-started his late-season surge by taking the checkers in the first night race of Daytona International Speedway's storied history (Pepsi 400-Oct. 17).

Gordon's third title ('95, '97 & '98) helped Hendrick Motorsports maintain its stranglehold on the championship hardware and leave an indelible mark in the annals of auto racing history. Terry Labonte played his part in the unprecedented run to four straight Winston Cup Championships back in 1996. It was Labonte, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg's/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, that edged Gordon for the Winston Cup crown that season. Gordon's 1998 title run helped Hendrick Motorsports push past the Cale Yarborough/Junior Johnson tandem, which won three straight titles between 1976-78.

Following his 8th-place finish in Sunday's NAPA 500, Labonte will be sitting in his customary spot at the head table for the Winston Cup awards banquet next month. The 41-year-old Texas native, who claimed his lone win of the '98 season at Richmond, finished ninth in this year's Winston Cup standings with 3,901 points. It marked the fifth consecutive year that Labonte has finished among the top ten drivers in NASCAR's most elite series.

Wally Dallenbach came home 35th in Atlanta this past weekend. Dallenbach piloted the No. 50 Budweiser/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Monte Carlo to three top-10 finishes in 16 races this season. During that time, Dallenbach and crew chief Tony Furr laid the groundwork for what promises to be an exciting and successful season in 1999.

In NASCAR Winston Cup competition, Hendrick Motorsports has now amassed 85 all-time victories and 83 pole positions dating back to the organization's inception in 1984. Gordon has produced 42 of those wins and 23 poles during his six-year tenure with Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports had another championship contender this past week in Jack Sprague, who last year helped Rick Hendrick become the first car-truck owner to win two of NASCAR's three major titles in the same season. Sprague did everything in his power to ensure a second-straight NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Sunday by starting from the Bud pole position and winning the Sam's Town 250 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately it wasn't a winner-take-all proposition for Sprague in his battle with perennial rival Ron Hornaday, who carried a 13-point lead into Sunday's final race.

Hornaday couldn't catch Sprague on the track Sunday, but his second-place finish lifted him to a three-point victory in the '98 point standings. Sprague, who enjoyed a stellar '98 season with five wins and four Bud poles, will be back in the No. 24 GMAC Financial Services/GM Protection Plan Chevrolet in 1999. Detroit-based GMAC Financial Services extended its primary sponsorship for the No. 24 Chevrolet truck next season.

A SEASON TO REMEMBER Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes/Hendrick Motorsports team helped shape many of the most memorable moments during NASCAR's 50th anniversary season. What follows is a summary of one of the most remarkable seasons in auto racing history:

Along with the record-tying 13 wins, Gordon also led his Winston Cup competitors with seven pole positions in 1998.

At 27, Gordon is the youngest driver to notch three NASCAR Winston Cup championships.

Gordon finished in the top five in 19 of the final 20 events (and 17 of those finishes were top threes)

For the last 18 races (since June 28th at Sears Point) he has been ranked first in the point standings.

Gordon has started races in the top-five 20 times and in the top-10 27 times (out of 33 total races).

Gordon cashed the Winston No Bull 5 million dollar bonus twice (Indianapolis and Darlington).

Gordon established an auto racing record for money won in a single event, when he cashed $1,637,625 for the Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis on Aug. 1.

Gordon became the first driver ever in the Winston Cup Series to capture the same event four times in a row when he won the Southern 500 at Darlington on Sept. 6.

Gordon accumulated 5,328 points in 1998, more points than any previous champion since the present points system went into effect in 1975. Cale Yarborough is the only other champion to reach the 5,000-point plateau. Yarborough compiled exactly 5,000 points during his championship run back in 1977.

As mentioned previously, Gordon hasn 42 career victories in six (full) seasons. And 33 of those wins have come in the last three years (10 wins in 1996, 10 wins in 1997 and 13 wins in 1998). No driver has accumulated that many victories so quickly.

From race purses and special bonuses, Gordon won more than $6.3 million in 1998. That figure will balloon to nearly $8 million when Gordon accepts his check as '98 champion on the NASCAR Banquet stage in New York next month. The resulting figure will also establish a new record for prize winnings in a single season.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Richard Petty , Junior Johnson , Cale Yarborough
Teams Hendrick Motorsports