The Era Of Parity
NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 30)- - It would be fair to say that Jeff Gordon dominated Winston Cup racing from 1995-1998. In those four seasons, he won three Winston Cup titles and racked up 40 of his 61 career victories. He posted 98 top-ten finishes in 127 starts-- meaning he finished in the top-ten in 77 percent of his starts. By comparison, his career top-ten percentage is 63%. In 1999 he won seven races but finished sixth in points. Crew chief Ray Evernham departed in September 1999 and new crew chief Robbie Loomis led Gordon to three wins in 2000 but slipped to ninth in the series standings. Gordon returned to championship form in 2001 with six victories and his fourth Winston Cup title. However, 2002 brought half as many victories (3) and Gordon is seventh in the current standings. After finishing 1st, 2nd, 1st, and 1st in the standings in the four year period from 1995-1998, Gordon has placed 6th, 9th, and 1st, and 7th (currently) in the points standings. Some might chalk it up to the chemistry lost when Evernham departed. No doubt, that has played a role. But when you look at the amount of parity in the sport compared to the mid-late 90's, it is striking. In 1998, there were 11 different race winners. In addition, Gordon and Mark Martin combined to win 21 of the 33 races in 1998. This season there have been 17 different winners (last year had 19 different winners) with no driver winning more than four races. In addition, the past four seasons have seen four different Winston Cup champions. Parity indeed.
NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 24)- - Jeff Gordon made his Winston Cup debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the fall of 1992. It was a race remembered for the thrilling championship battle between Alan Kulwicki, Bill Elliott, and Davey Allison. It was also the final race in the illustrious career of Richard Petty. The Winston Cup debut of a 21-year-old rookie was simply an afterthought. Gordon battled a loose handling car until he eventually lost the back end and damaged the car. He finished 31st on a day that saw Elliott capture the victory, Kulwicki capture the Winston Cup by a mere 10 points over Elliott, and the final ride for The King. "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.'"
GQ Award Winner
NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 17)- - Jeff Gordon was honored on Wednesday evening at the GQ Magazine 'Men of the Year' awards at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Gordon accepted the award for Individual Athlete of the Year. Hosted by comedian Dennis Miller, the seventh annual GQ Men of the Year Awards recognized 18 men of distinction from the worlds of music, fashion/style, film, literature, sports, comedy, television, theatre and the culinary arts. In the other sports category, New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd was honored as the Team Athlete of the Year. Among the other celebrities in attendance were Denzel Washington, Naomi Campbell, Kiefer Sutherland, Hugh Grant, Samuel L. Jackson, Heidi Klum, Ralph Lauren, Elijah Wood and Tom Brokaw. Gordon, along with Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr, was featured in the October issue of GQ Magazine. NBC will broadcast the GQ Awards show on December 14.
Ricky Switches Gears
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 11)- - Ricky Hendrick, the 22-year-old son of Hendrick Motorsports founder Rick Hendrick, has decided to step out of the #5 GMAC Chevrolet in the Busch Grand National series and end his career as a full-time stock car driver due to lingering effects of a shoulder injury suffered on March 2, 2002 in a crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "All I know is that I was having a problem entering turns, which I didn't have before," Hendrick said. "To be at the level I want to be, I can't because there is something haunting me getting into the turns which prevents me from being Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, the caliber of that nature. This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I have an obligation to give my sponsors and my team the best possible chance at success on the race track and Iíve come to the conclusion that I'm not able to deliver that. After a lot of soul searching, Iíve decided to step away from the driver's seat to pursue other opportunities within Hendrick Motorsports. I love this team and I love this sport, but I'm not able to perform at a level that I'm comfortable with." His best finish this season was 7th at IRP in August. In 22 starts this year, he had posted just two top-10 finishes in a season interrupted by injury. In his 38-race Busch series career, Hendrick racked up three top-10 finishes with his best finish (5th) coming in 2000 at Nashville Fairgrounds. Hendrick posted one career NASCAR victory-- in a Craftsman Truck race at Kansas Speedway in 2001. Regarding future plans, he will likely run a Hendrick auto dealership. "I am trying to open a dealership and I spent some time looking at some land to build it on," he said last week. Veteran driver David Green will replace Hendrick in the #5 BGN car thru the end of the 2002 season. A driver for the #5 GMAC Chevrolet for 2003 will be named at a later date. In an interview last July, the younger Hendrick noted that he already had his post-racing life planned. "After I accomplish my goals in racing, and I really don't know how long that will take, I'll move over to the business side and run Hendrick Motorsports," he said. He noted in 2001 that his parents didn't want him to become a race car driver. "Dad really would rather see me on the automotive side of his business," he said in April 2001. "In fact, he's told me, 'I'll give you a part of any dealership that you want, if you quit racing.' That's a pretty good deal, but I'm doing what I love doing. I'm not making the money I could be making by selling cars, but it's not about the money. It's about the love and the passion I have for racing." Things changed in 2002. His passion for racing will remain, but from the other side of the pit wall.
LAS VEGAS, NV. (October 2)- - Jeff Gordon was in Las Vegas, Nevada this week filming a brief cameo for "Looney Tunes: Back In Action" set to debut in theaters in November 2003. In addition to the Looney Tunes characters, the movie will star Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Heather Locklear, and former professional wrestler Bill Goldberg. In the movie, the animated Looney Tunes characters move through a live-action world that takes them from Hollywood to Las Vegas (hence Gordon's cameo) and into Africa in search of the mythical Blue Diamond. Director Joe Dante provided a brief synopsis of the storyline:
"Bugs and Daffy work at a movie studio. Daffy quits because he's tired of Bugs getting all the favorable treatment. He hooks up with a stuntman (played by Brendan Fraser) who is also fired the same day due to hanging around with Daffy too much, and gets involved in an adventure because his father was a secret spy on the trail of a mythical blue diamond. Daffy, of course, wants to go on the journey with him but the studio decides they want Daffy back, so Bugs and a young studio executive heroine (played by Jenna Elfman) have to go out and try to bring Daffy back. It takes place over several continents and it's quite a big deal."
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