Gordon remembers first win vividly By Marty Smith CONCORD, N.C., (May 6, 1999) Jeff Gordon says his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series win as a "great confidence booster" for him and his team. When a particular event stands out in Jeff Gordon's...
Gordon remembers first win vividly By Marty Smith
CONCORD, N.C., (May 6, 1999) Jeff Gordon says his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series win as a "great confidence booster" for him and his team. When a particular event stands out in Jeff Gordon's mind, it is safe to say something extraordinary occurred. That was the case on May 29, 1994, when Gordon took the checkered flag in the Coca-Cola 600 at then-Charlotte Motor Speedway, marking his first-ever NASCAR Winston Cup Series victory. "That's what got all of this started," said Gordon, referring to the empire that he has helped build at Hendrick Motorsports. "That gave me the confidence to know I could win at this level. That was a great confidence booster for me."
Since then, Gordon has piloted the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet to 44 more victories and three NASCAR Winston Cup Series championships, the last of which came a year ago.
During the 1998 campaign, the No. 24 team rolled up 13 victories to tie Richard Petty's modern-era record. Once again, it was the Coca-Cola 600 that gave foresight on what was to come.
"We had a car that was fast for the first time in 1998, and we realized we finally had a handle on the Monte Carlo," he said. "We'd been getting our butts kicked all year by the Ford Taurus. Then we came here and won the 600 and our confidence was growing so much. That's when we were like, 'Man, we can win every race.'
"We weren't competitive at first, but once we got that car dialed in we really took off."
This season has been similar for the No. 24 team.
Gordon has driven to Victory Lane three times in 1999, but a series of bad runs and bad luck has haunted him, dropping him to 5th in the points standings.
"Somebody asked me if I was surprised with the bad luck we've had this year," he said, "and I said 'No, I'm more surprised with the good luck we had the past four or five years.'
"We're having a more typical team's year this year. To win the championship, you can't have the misfortune we've had. We still feel like we're capable of winning championship, but we have to finish every race and finish as high as we possibly can. If we do that, we should be in the top-5 every weekend."
After last week's win in the California 500 presented by NAPA at California Speedway, momentum is once again building for the Rainbow Warriors. Gordon has always run well at next week's venue -- Richmond International Raceway -- and then the circuit swings back to Lowe's Motor Speedway for The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600, two races that are at opposite ends of the racing spectrum.
"The Winston is all-out as hard as you can possibly run," Gordon said. "You don't worry about saving the car or saving tires. You put every bit of horsepower you can under the hood. It's for bragging rights.
"As for the 600, 600 miles is a long, long way. It's a matter of survival and saving your equipment, even if you have to make an extra pit stop or two. You have to stay out of trouble, because the best car doesn't always win. Going from day to night, the cars handle much differently. We're looking forward to Charlotte."
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Source: NASCAR Online