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Gordon Still in Championship Picture

Gordon Still in Championship Picture

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 8, 2002)—“This year is certainly not going to be like last year.”

Those words were spoken by Jeff Gordon prior to this year’s Daytona 500 and what a difference a year makes.

Last year, Gordon held a 334-point lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings over his closest pursuer with six races remaining. This year, the top-11 are separated by only 324 points heading into Sunday’s UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway with Gordon tied for sixth, 201 points behind leader Tony Stewart.

As daunting as the challenge may seem, Gordon needs to only look back at his first career Winston Cup start at Atlanta in November of 1992 to know that he still has a chance at earning his fifth this year. In that race, the late Alan Kulwicki rallied to win the championship after trailing by 278 points with six races remaining.

In a time when a good finish is a must, the DuPont Chevrolet that Gordon will pilot this weekend is undefeated at Kansas Speedway and, in the seven events it has competed in 2002, has one win and five top-five finishes.

“We’re going to have to take more risks now if we hope to win the championship this year,” said Gordon. “We need wins and top-fives to put pressure on the guys ahead of us in points.

“Our focus will be the same as it’s been all year—focus on our team and what we can accomplish. We can’t worry about what the other teams are doing. We just need to lead laps, run well and finish well and the points will take care of themselves. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.

“The points race has been crazy this year with no driver showing dominance,” he continued. “It’s time for someone to step up and put a string of good finishes together over the last six races. I hope it’s us.”

In 19 starts at LMS, Gordon has four wins, seven pole positions, 10 top-fives and 11 top-10s. He has led 391 laps, but has never led the most laps. The four-time champion also captured his first career Winston Cup pole at the 1.5-mile track in 1993 and his first career Winston Cup victory there in 1994.

A first-place finish this weekend would tie Gordon with the late Dale Earnhardt for third in all-time victories at the Concord, N.C., oval, one behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.

A win would also make a statement that Gordon’s title hopes are still alive.

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