Rockingham Championship Story

No drama in Gordon championship clincher By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Nov. 1, 1998) If you were looking for any championship dramatics on Sunday, you certainly weren't going to find it at North Carolina Speedway. ...

No drama in Gordon championship clincher By Shawn A. Akers NASCAR Online

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Nov. 1, 1998) If you were looking for any championship dramatics on Sunday, you certainly weren't going to find it at North Carolina Speedway. Jeff Gordon took any and all drama out of the NASCAR Winston Cup championship equation on lap 120 of the 393-lap AC/Delco 400 in Rockingham when he led a lap to gain five bonus points. That put him over the top and earned the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet his third career title in the last four years. Not only that, Gordon went out and won the race, passing Rusty Wallace with eight laps to go to earn his 12th victory of the 1998 campaign, leaving him one short of Richard Petty's modern-day record of 13 wins in one season. He can tie that mark with a victory in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday. Clinching the championship by getting to victory lane was more than Gordon could have hoped for on Sunday. "What an incredible day for these guys on the DuPont Chevrolet," Gordon said. "The thing just came to life (at the end of the race). I needed it to be better on the short runs, and when you're low on pressures after those tires are cool, it takes a long time for them to come in. Man, they came in at the right time. "What an awesome championship. Consistency is what wins the championship. It was just a great, great run for all of us. We're so thrilled to have this championship, but to be able to do it the way we did it is awesome also. I can tell you, we've never won one like this before." In winning Sunday, Gordon also became the first driver ever to accumulate over 5,000 points in one season (5,143). Mark Martin, his closest competitor, has 4,799 with one race left. Prior to this season, even his other two championship years, Gordon had never won a race in either October or November. Now, he's done both after having won Sunday at Rockingham and the Pepsi 400 two weeks ago at Daytona. "This team is a great team, and that kid (Gordon) is a great driver," said Ray Evernham, crew chief of the No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet team. "I'm just so happy, not only to be a part of this sport, but to run like that. This is something that means a great deal to us, to win. And it's also November, so we've won one in October and November. I knew we had a good car and a great driver. We (his crew) got him in a bad way, but he's having a blast out there now." Gordon became the seventh driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history to win at least three NASCAR Winston Cup titles, but became the driver to do so the quickest. The 27-year phenom is in his seventh season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. David Pearson is the second-youngest to win three titles, having done so at age 31 with 10 years of NASCAR Winston Cup experience. The other drivers who have won three or more championships are: Dale Earnhardt (7), Richard Petty (7), Darrell Waltrip (3), Cale Yarborough (3) and Lee Petty (3). Gordon led only three times for a total of 28 laps, but the final eight is what counted. Wallace appeared to be cruising to the victory, having led laps 350 to lap 384, before his tires went away. "I just wore the tires out," Wallace said. "Right there at the end...it just went away and when it started to go away, it went away fast. Then I saw Gordon coming and there was nothing I could do." There certainly won't be any pressure at all on Gordon next weekend at Atlanta. He'll stroll into Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NAPA 500 already the champion, so he and the team will have the luxury of not even thinking about points, but going after yet another win. " To be able to win the race and do it in Rockingham before the season is over, it's certainly going to make Atlanta more relaxing, that's for sure," Gordon said. "I think each and every championship so far I've been able to enjoy it. It hasn't quite sunk in yet. It's been an amazing year. It's been an incredible four-year runs for us."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace , Richard Petty , Ray Evernham , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin , David Pearson , Lee Petty