"Rainbow Pirates" Ready for 1999

Gordon's "Rainbow Pirates" ready for 1999 By Brett Borden NASCAR Online DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 20, 1999) When you win 13 races and post 26 top-five finishes in any NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, your performance is intimidating enough...

Gordon's "Rainbow Pirates" ready for 1999 By Brett Borden NASCAR Online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 20, 1999) When you win 13 races and post 26 top-five finishes in any NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, your performance is intimidating enough on its own. When you show up for testing the next year in a black car adorned with a skull and crossbones, you're really going all out to make a statement. Jeff Gordon, fresh off his dream season in 1998 when he won his third series championship in four years by tying a modern-day record with 13 victories, said in a press conference Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway that the way he sees it, he'd just as soon continue being every competitor's worst nightmare. "If you're successful and you win races and win championships then a lot more of this is going to come," Gordon said. "So I hope that it continues -- that's what I hope for -- because I certainly want to continue going out there having great seasons. "I think we've got to approach (1999) the same, but when we approach it the same way, that means that we put out the same effort and try to improve every year. We try to find our weaknesses." Weaknesses? The cars don't have Kryptonite parts this year, do they? "There were tracks that we could improve on," Gordon said. "Las Vegas. Texas. Even some of the short tracks. Our first Martinsville race, the night race at Bristol. We struggled a little bit at those. Fortunately for us, struggling is still making the top-10. Last year we finished a lot of races, and when we're finishing races we're usually finishing up towards the front. So we've got to make sure we stay on par as far as finishing races. We've got to always make sure that that's there first." Gordon has already finished first 42 times in his still-young NASCAR Winston Cup Series career. Hence it should come as no surprise that wins don't impress him as much as they do the average driver. "The thing that impresses me the most with what we did last year were the 26 top-fives," he said. "The 13 wins, those are great, but I don't expect to try to top that or even compare to that. I think that what we need to do is put ourselves in position to win. If things work out like they did last year for us, we'll be able to go to Victory Lane. Those top-fives, those are what win championships, and when I look at 26 top-fives, that's really what contributed to us winning the championship." He is off on the right foot in his quest for the 1999 championship, posting the fastest speed (192.452 mph) by a General Motors car after preseason testing concluded Wednesday at Daytona, prior to the season-opening Daytona 500. "Things have been going real well for us," Gordon said. "We've got one new car and a car that was new last year that we won with here -- the night race in October. And we're just doing some engine testing with that so you probably won't see us go real fast (189.510 mph Wednesday). "But with our other car we have been able to go with some decent speeds. Not quite what some of those Fords ran last week but we feel like when we come back we'll be able to get more out of it, so I'm real happy with that car so far." So far that car has been fastest of the GM breed at Daytona. With its intimidating paint scheme, it could turn the rest of the field into Rainbow Worriers come Speedweeks. "My guys have fun when we go testing," Gordon said of his car's appearance. "So they want to stand out I guess. I don't know. We've got this black primer car and we're so used to having this rainbow effect and all these bright colors. And now they've brought the skull and crossbones out. You'll have to talk to Ray (Evernham, crew chief) about that one. I'm sure there's something behind it." There could be a lot of cars behind it when the checkered flag drops for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon