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Team DuPont Changes Focus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Oct. 30, 2002)—Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont team may have lost their chance at winning a fifth NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship, but they haven’t thrown in the towel just yet.

Gordon is currently seventh in the Winston Cup point standings. He has three wins, 10 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. With three races remaining, he trails leader Tony Stewart by 301 points.

“I’d much rather be going for a championship right now, and it’s a lot different when you’re not,” said Gordon. “We’re just trying to make the most of it, but I don’t think you’re as enthusiastic about where you are in the points as if you were going for a championship.

“At the same time, you’re trying to build for next year and maintain and improve in the points and win races. I think there’s some excitement that comes with that, but it’s a different feeling. We’re not concerned with points right now. We want to get our cars the best we can and end the season on a real positive note.

“Even though we’re not in the championship hunt now, there are other goals we want to accomplish such as winning poles and winning at tracks we’ve never won on before like Phoenix and Homestead.

“In 2000, we struggled for much of the season, but came on strong in the end and built momentum for 2001 and won the championship,” he continued. “I think we can do the same thing this year and use these last three races as a catalyst for next year.”

One of those goals can be accomplished this Friday in qualifying at North Carolina Speedway. Although Gordon has two poles at “The Rock,” he has never won the pole for the fall event.

“We’ve certainly had our chances but for some reason or another it just hasn’t gone our way,” said Gordon, who has four wins, seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes at the Rockingham, N.C., track. “I love qualifying and racing here. It’s fun because you see so many different drivers using different lines in the turns.”

Qualifying has been canceled due to rain in three of the last four Winston Cup events, but if weather isn’t a factor on Friday, and if history is any indication, then Gordon should qualify up front for Sunday’s race. In 19 career races at the 1.017-mile oval, Gordon has qualified inside the top five 12 times.

The DuPont team will also aim to win the World Pit Crew Championship at Rockingham on Saturday.

“This is a great event to showcase what an awesome job these guys do every race,” said Gordon. “I don’t think I could ask for a better pit crew than the one I have now. As a driver with this crew, it’s one less thing I have to worry about during a race.

“The championship may be out of reach, but it’s not going to stop us from making a little noise here at the end of the season.”

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