Gordon Seeking Victory, Not Points at Atlanta
- Oct 23, 2002
- 24 Team
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 23, 2002)—Ten years ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a mustached 21-year-old kid made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut amidst the hoopla of a king retiring and the closest championship battle in history. That day, Jeff Gordon finished an unimpressive 31st in his first career start.
Fast-forward 10 years. The mustache is gone and some gray hairs have emerged—along with some astounding statistics. Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, has captured four championships, 61 victories, 42 poles, 157 top-fives and 206 top-10s in 325 career starts. Not even Gordon could imagine this type of success.
“I’ve accomplished much more than I ever imagined,” Gordon said. “Someone asked me what else I needed to accomplish as a driver. The answer is nothing.
“Don’t get me wrong, we all compete to win and I still want to win races and championships. That’s what drives us. But I’ve already surpassed what I thought I would accomplish in this sport. Whatever else I do is ‘icing on the cake.’”
Gordon enters this Sunday’s NAPA 500 at Atlanta with only an outside chance of capturing his fifth championship in 10 years. He is currently sixth in the point standings, 291 behind leader Tony Stewart, and would need to gain an average of 73 points per race to surpass Stewart in the final standings.
“We’re done thinking about points this year,” Gordon said. “Our goal now is to go out and do everything possible to win the remaining races. We can use the last four races to build momentum towards the 2003 season.”
In 20 starts at the quad-oval, Gordon has three wins, one pole, eight top-fives and 11 top-10s. He has clinched three of his four Winston Cup championships at Atlanta.
“We had a pretty safe lead heading into the final race of 1995 and we clinched just by leading a lap,” Gordon said. “Last year, we clinched here with one race to go in the season.
“I think the most stressful weekend of my career was here in 1997. We were battling with Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett for the title in the last race of the season and I wrecked the primary car on pit road in Saturday’s practice.
“We used the backup car and I think we had to finish in 17th or 18th that day to clinch. We ran around that spot all day and finished 17th to win the championship by only a few points.
“For me, it was a great finish to a weekend that didn’t start out very well.”