A Win at Night Would Make Gordon’s Day
- Aug 21, 2002
- 24 Team
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 21, 2002)—The difference between Jeff Gordon’s performances in the two NASCAR Winston Cup Series races held annually at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway are like night and day—literally.
Gordon has won the afternoon event at Bristol four times (consecutively from 1995 to 1998). However, he has never won the Sharpie 500, the famous night race at the venue. His best finish was second in 1996, and last year, he finished third.
“It’s a faster pace at night and we always seem to be too tight,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “The tires seem to go away quicker in the spring which is why I believe we do so well.”
Earlier this season, Gordon earned his first pole position at Bristol and seemed to be on his way to collecting his fifth “day” victory—until lap 157.
Gordon’s car spun and struck the wall, causing damage to the left rear after leading 82 of the first 157 laps before being forced to the garage for repairs. He came back to finish 31st, but thinks he could have won if not for the accident.
“The car just went around on me,” said Gordon. “There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ at Bristol, but I really think we had a chance to win if we didn’t wreck. Just surviving this track on the lead lap is a feat in itself.”
Gordon has been able to do a lot more than ‘just survive’ at Bristol. In addition to his four victories, he has nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. The defending Winston Cup champion has also led 18 percent of the laps in the 19 Bristol events he’s competed in.
“Winning a race at Bristol anytime is pretty special,” said Gordon. “The night race adds to the excitement and I hope we can turn it around here.
“The car can take some damage and still be competitive here since aerodynamics aren’t much of a factor. You’re in good shape as long as the car handles well and you’re able to get on the gas quick coming out of turns two and four.”
Last weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Gordon broke the modern-era record for consecutive finishes without a DNF (did not finish), his most recent occurring at Darlington, S.C., in March of 2001, a streak of 54 races that started at Bristol in the spring of 2001.
“Keeping that streak alive this weekend will be challenging, especially here at Bristol, but it’s something that has kept us in the championship chase,” said Gordon. “It would be nice to start a winning streak this weekend.”