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Gordon Poised to Make Darlington History

 

DARLINGTON, S.C. (Aug. 29, 2003) – Sunday’s 54th running of the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway could host a record-breaking weekend for Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, as he attempts to win his sixth Labor Day weekend event at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track.

In 1982, Cale Yarborough entered the record books by winning his fifth Southern 500 at Darlington. For 20 years, Yarborough held that position alone until Gordon joined the ranks in 2002.

With five wins (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2002) recorded in the fall race, Gordon can surpass another milestone that holds prestige in the world of racing.

“When you are doing things that Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt did throughout their careers, it obviously means a lot to you,” Gordon said. “To be able to do something that they never accomplished is even more incredible.

“What impresses me so much about what we’ve been able to accomplish at Darlington is, when you look at the names of the drivers who were so good here, they were all such big names in the sport. A lot of them were Winston Cup champions. Certain teams and certain drivers have always been able to run well here.”

With a 5.95 starting average at Darlington—better than any other driver—Gordon has three poles, 11 top-fives, 14 top-10s and has led a total of 1,378 laps. He also recorded a victory in the spring race there in 1996.

However, Darlington presents a challenge to drivers and teams, as they must approach qualifying differently than the actual race.

“You have to separate the race from qualifying,” Gordon said. “You have to be aggressive in qualifying—with your driving style and the car’s setup—but you need to compromise during the race. You have to compromise between first and second turns and the third and fourth. You must be smooth and stay out of the wall.”

After a long and tumultuous second-half of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season for the No. 24 DuPont team, Gordon hopes that a win in the final Labor Day weekend event at Darlington will turn the remainder of the season around.

The Mountain Dew Southern 500, a tradition on the holiday weekend since 1950, will be run in November for the 2004 NASCAR season.

“It will feel different going there during a different time of year, but what the track means to the sport will never change,” Gordon said. “I don’t look at the dates a race falls on as much as I look at the track at what it means to the sport.

“And a win here would mean a lot to this team right now.”

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