Las Vegas: Jeff Gordon preview

Las Vegas Was Key Race In Gordon's 2001 Championship Run LAS VEGAS, Nev. - "We're back!" That is what Jeff Gordon told a national TV audience in victory lane after winning the 2001 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. When ...

Las Vegas Was Key Race In Gordon's 2001 Championship Run

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - "We're back!"

That is what Jeff Gordon told a national TV audience in victory lane after winning the 2001 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

When Gordon looks back on the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season, the hurdle the No. 24 DuPont team cleared that day may have been the defining moment of his fourth championship.

Prior to the 2001 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, Gordon had not fared well in Las Vegas. He had only one top-15 finish (a third in 1999) in three starts, had finished on the lead lap only once and had led only one lap.

His luck changed last year when he led 33 laps en route to his first victory of the 2001 season. He also captured a $1 million bonus from Winston as part of their No Bull 5 promotion.

"We turned our whole program around here last year and went on to win the championship," Gordon said. "A lot of it had to do with the momentum that came out of that event.

"To have struggled here in the past and win the race really pumped this team up for the remainder of the year."

Robbie Loomis, who joined the No. 24 team as crew chief at the beginning of the 2000 season, knew he had the driver that could win races if he provided him with good equipment.

"We finished 28th in this race in 2000 in only my third race as Jeff Gordon's crew chief," Loomis said. "We have the best driver on the planet and yet we ran poorly.

"That was a long trip home to Charlotte, especially when you're sitting next to Mr. Hendrick.

"Last year, we didn't qualify that well (24th) but we made a lot of gains during Saturday's practice sessions. On Sunday, Jeff moved his way up through the field while we kept adjusting the car during pit stops. Things really came together that day and I think it showed in our results the rest of the season."

Gordon, who enters Sunday's race fourth in the point standings only 38 points behind leader Sterling Marlin, will use the same car he drove to victory in last year's inaugural race at Kansas City. This also marks the first time since 1997 that Gordon has begun the year with two top-10 finishes.

With momentum on his side and a proven race car, odds are good that Gordon will get back to victory lane on Sunday.

-hm/pprp-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Sterling Marlin , Robbie Loomis