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GORDON'S CHAMPIONSHIP QUEST: IT'S 40TH OR BETTER, TRIPS HE'LL WIN ROCKINGHAM, N.C. If Jeff Gordon finishes the AC Delco 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway 40th or better this weekend, he will clinch his third NASCAR Winston Cup...

GORDON'S CHAMPIONSHIP QUEST: IT'S 40TH OR BETTER, TRIPS HE'LL WIN

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. If Jeff Gordon finishes the AC Delco 400 at North Carolina Motor Speedway 40th or better this weekend, he will clinch his third NASCAR Winston Cup championship in four years.

Gordon has not finished lower than 40th this season. In fact, he has driven his DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet to 24 top-five and 26 top- 10's. His average finish is 6.0. Should he be one of the first three cars to fall out of the race, he would need only to take the green flag at the 33rd and final race of the season at Atlanta the following weekend to be crowned champion.

"We're looking forward to going back to Rockingham," said Gordon. "It's been a good track for us."

"We want to go there and run strong and have a shot at winning in the end. Clinching the championship before Atlanta isn't really a priority of ours. We just want to win that third championship and it doesn't really matter where it happens."

"If we can run well and get a good finish or a win at Rockingham, it can happen there. However, it's not over until it's over and as we've seen many times in the past, anything can happen."

Rockingham really has been a good track for Gordon. He has won here three times, but all three of those wins have come in the early-season race at the 1.017-mile oval. The first time Gordon found himself among the top 10 at the end of a fall race was last year when he scored a fourth-place finish.

"We've really made an effort to step up our end-of-the-year program," said Gordon. "We got our first October win in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona and hopefully we'll be able to get our first November win this weekend."

"We'll have the same car that I drove the last time we won here and the team's confidence level is at an all-time high right now."

Gordon has more wins than any of his competitors and if he obtains his first November win this weekend it will be his 12th of the season. He also has more poles (7), more top-fives and more top-10's than any other driver. He has led more races and has a better average start and a better average finish overall.

"We've been amazed at what we've accomplished this season," said Gordon. "I never would have dreamed that we would be able to get 10 wins again this season, let alone 11."

"Our goal this year was to be a more consistent team, but I never thought we'd end up with a streak of 17 consecutive top-five finishes. This DuPont team has never been better."

Gordon could have clinched the championship last weekend at Phoenix if he gained 12 points on second place Mark Martin. But the first rain-shortened race in the desert, although producing a double rainbow, did not produce an opportunity for the rainbow-colored car to finish the race in its entirety.

"We were coming on toward the end," said Gordon. "We were getting a little better after pitting and adjusting the car."

"We weren't able to continue that top-five streak, but we're not really disappointed. We still had a solid finish and we're in good shape going into Rockingham."

Good shape is an understatement -- 40th or better, trips he'll win.

It's not much of a gamble.

Be part of something big

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin