Cutting It Fine
But like any competitor worth his gas money, Gordon wants more.
“We’re looking at a lot of great things this year,” says Gordon. “We’re looking back at last season and trying to find all of the areas we could’ve been better at. We want to make sure we don’t make any mistake that are going to cost us points in the championship.”
Last season Gordon won three races but finished fourth in the points chase – well behind champion Tony Stewart. It was a year that saw plenty of parity in the sport, with 18 different drivers finding their way to victory lane.
“It’s more difficult to win now,” Gordon said. “I think what’s happening is you’re seeing more guys win but not as many guys winning multiple races. That says how competitive it is and how difficult it is.”
In 2001 with Gordon driving and crew chief Robbie Loomis preparing the DuPont-sponsored Chevrolet, the multi-colored machine wound up in victory lane six times, and Gordon won the points crown by a comfortable margin.
He has always been a quick study, getting his USAC license at 16 instead of the customary age of 18.
In 1993 Gordon took Rookie of the Year honors and became the first driver to cop those honors in both Winston Cup and Busch Series racing. He also won one of the 125-mile qualifiers at Daytona, the first rookie to do so since 1963.
A year later Gordon found himself in victory lane twice, winning the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indy and NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.
In just his third year in Winston Cup, Gordon grabbed his first series crown and became the youngest champ of the modern era. Along the way, he scored seven victories and earned almost $4.5 million – the most earnings in a single season in the history of stock car racing.
In 1997 Gordon won his second championship. Aside from winning the Winston Million, Gordon took 10 checkers. He picked up his third points title a year later, and this time he exceeded his 1997 accomplishments with an astounding 13 victories, seven poles, 26 top-5 finishes and two No Bull Five wins. His 13 wins and four-race win streak were both modern records.
But the next two seasons saw Gordon stumble – at least by the standards he had already set for himself. There were seven wins but a sixth-place points finish in 1999, and in 2000 Gordon won just three races and wound up ninth in the final standings.
In 2001 Flash Gordon was back. Aside from his six checkers, he had an astounding 19 top-5 showings and 21 top-10s.
Earnhardt and Petty each have seven big trophies, while Gordon’s alone in third place, ahead of such greats as Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Lee Petty.