Martinsville Gordon Preview

GORDON TWO-STEPPING HIS WAY TOWARD THIRD CHAMPIONSHIP MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon has finished first or second in 10 of the last 12 races -- seven were wins. This two-stepping each week has positioned Gordon,...

GORDON TWO-STEPPING HIS WAY TOWARD THIRD CHAMPIONSHIP

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon has finished first or second in 10 of the last 12 races -- seven were wins.

This two-stepping each week has positioned Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet, as a serious contender and a favorite for his third championship in four years.

His dance partner? Mark Martin.

For the last two years Gordon and Martin have danced together and when you least expected it, Dale Jarrett cut in. This year, however, Gordon and Martin have learned the two-step.

In four of Gordon's 10 wins this season, Martin has finished second. In three of those, Gordon led the most laps and gained 10 points on Martin each time. Last Sunday at Dover Downs, Martin won the race and led the most laps. Gordon finished second decreasing his points lead by 10.

Martin may have taken the spotlight with this twirl, but Gordon still leads. Even with Martin's gain in points last weekend, Gordon still leads by 194 points with seven races remaining.

"I feel better about running for the championship this year than I have any other," said Gordon. "We've been much more consistent this year than we've ever been in the past."

"In 1995 we just started winning races and leading a lot of laps and before we knew it we were running for the championship. The next year was the first year we went into the season with the goal of winning the championship and had some DNF's and weren't all that competitive at the end of the season. Then last year was a real battle down to the end with Martin and Jarrett and we could have lost it just as easily as we won it. Once again, we weren't very strong at the end of the season."

"This year we've been more consistent than we've ever been. We have some newer equipment than we've had in the past at the end of the season and we've made a real effort to improve our end of the year performance."

Gordon will be a favorite at Martinsville this Sunday. So will Martin. Both are accomplished short track drivers, both have won at Martinsville.

Gordon has two wins at the .526-mile oval in 11 starts. He has five top- fives and eight top-10's for an average finish of 8.1.

In his last five starts at Martinsville, Gordon has four top-five and one top-10 for an average finish of 3.4. He led 815 of 1,500 laps in those five races, or 54 per cent.

The dance at Martinsville this Sunday might be more like the bump and grind than the two-step and it certainly will not be as graceful. If Gordon steps on his own toes, Martin will be there to take the lead. If the two of them miss a step, Jarrett will be ready to cut in.

If Gordon and Martin continue this two-step routine for the rest of the season, Gordon can't lose.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Mark Martin