Daytona Redemption on Gordon’s Mind
- Jul 05, 2002
- 24 Team
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2002)—Don`t expect Jeff Gordon to make the same mistake twice at Daytona.
Gordon, who is driving a special DuPont/Pepsi paint scheme on Saturday night, was leading the 2002 Daytona 500 in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway when a caution came out late in the race. On the ensuing restart with six laps remaining, he moved down the track to block second-place Sterling Marlin.
The result was Gordon spinning through the infield grass and eliminating his chance to win a third career Daytona 500. He recovered to finish ninth, his best in the last six races at the famed speedway.
“I should have just given up when he got beside me and still had a battle and a shot to win,” said Gordon. “I hated to see that last caution. We were in a perfect position to win.
“It was a crazy race out there. I went from the back to the front, the front to the back. It was incredible.”
Incredible may be the word that best describes the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season for Gordon. Despite being caught in a 24-race winless streak, the longest since winning his first Winston Cup race in 1994, he is still third in the driver standings, just 82 points behind leader Marlin.
Moving up the standings is not the only incentive Gordon has going into the Daytona 500 on Saturday night. By virtue of finishing in the top five in Charlotte earlier this year, the four-time Winston Cup champion became eligible for the Winston No Bull 5 bonus. If he wins the race, he and a lucky fan will each receive one million dollars.
Since the program’s inception in 1998, Gordon has been eligible nine times and has won four—more than any driver.
“If the points lead and a million-dollar bonus doesn’t get your blood going then perhaps you should get your pulse checked,” said Gordon. “I think it’s great that we get this opportunity to do this for the fans.”
Overall, in 19 career Winston Cup races at Daytona, Gordon has four wins, two poles, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
The No. 24 team will compete in the car that donned the “DuPont 200th Anniversary” paint scheme, the same one that took the checkered flag in the Twin-125 qualifying race and nearly won the Daytona 500 in February.
“It’s going to be a wild race under the lights,” said Gordon. “If we’re up front with about five laps to go, then I like our chances.”