New York State Of Mind
NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 2)- - Jeff Gordon's week in New York City in honor of his fourth Winston Cup championship concluded with the Winston Cup awards ceremony on Friday night. Car owner Rick Hendrick, crew chief Robbie Loomis, and members of the DuPont team were honored for their acheivements. Gordon received a check from R.J. Reynolds for $4,787,681, which included a $1,000,000 bonus for his victory in the No Bull Five race at Las Vegas in March. The total also included his share of other contingency awards and pushed his career earnings past the $44 million mark, moving him ahead of Dale Earnhardt into first place on the all-time money list. The highlight of the awards ceremony was Garth Brooks' performance of "The Dance" with video of Dale Earnhardt's career in the background.
During his speech, Gordon discussed the rebuilding effort of 1999-2000, looked back on the 2001 championship season, and looked ahead to 2002. "There's a sign in our shop that says 'Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results,'" Gordon said. "But for me that says it all about this year and this team. What I've seen this year is the power of what can happen when people believe in themselves and support one another. I've seen firsthand that when a team sets its mind to a goal and works together, any obstacle can be overcome and any dream can become a reality. The Daytona 500 is 79 days away, 79 long days away. But with this team right here, I wish it was tomorrow guys. I wish it was tomorrow."
Gordon had a busy week in New York City. He appeared on The Today Show on Tuesday morning and was interviewed on Live with Regis and Kelly on Wednesday. Gordon co-hosted with Regis in January 2001 and received the now infamous spa treatment on live TV. In addition, Gordon appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman on Thursday night. He also did the champion's photo shoot in Times Square on Thursday morning.
Gordon has had a number of memorable trips to New York. A few years back he took on the challenge of driving a New York City taxicab from Manhattan's Columbus Circle down to Times Square, trying to beat the time recorded by a New York cab driver along the same route (and he did). But this year was likely the most memorable and poignant as Gordon went to Lower Manhattan on Tuesday to get a firsthand look at the site of the World Trade Center and talked with workers involved in the recovery effort. He also visited Ladder Company 24. On September 11, the company lost seven firemen in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
End Of The Line
LOUDON, N.H. (November 24)- - Beginning in 1994, two drivers from Hendrick Motorsports won at least one race every year. From 1994-1999, Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte won races. In 2000, Gordon and Jerry Nadeau visited victory lane. The seven year stretch was the longest active streak of any multi-car organization. However, the streak was snapped in 2001 as Gordon was the only HMS driver to win a race.
A Fitting Tribute
HAMPTON, GA. (November 19)- - In the midst of his championship celebration following the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon took time to pay tribute to a driver he battled with for eight years-- Dale Earnhardt. "I think it's only fitting that we honor one of the greatest champions NASCAR will ever have, Dale Earnhardt," Gordon said. "He taught me how to race for a championship and he taught me an awful lot of other things. We miss him a lot and we're just so proud to be able to get this Winston Cup championship and get our fourth one. I know if he was here he'd be the first to come over and congratulate us."
NEW YORK, N.Y. (November 16)- - After finishing 9th in the 2000 Winston Cup points standings, Jeff Gordon was not invited to participate in the 2001 International Race of Champions (IROC). He had participated in the series for six consecutive seasons from 1995-2000. However, he is virtually a certainty to be invited to participate in the 2002 IROC series. In 24 career IROC races, Gordon has posted just one victory which came in a rain shortened race at Daytona in 1998. He'll look to add to that total in 2002. All four IROC races are held in conjunction with Winston Cup events. The season begins at Daytona International Speedway in February, followed by California Speedway in late April, Chicagoland Speedway in mid July, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early August. In addition to a number of Indy Racing League drivers, expected to join Gordon in the IROC series for 2002 are Ricky Rudd, Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, and Kevin Harvick among others.
Different Point Of View
CORAL GABLES, FLA. (November 10)- - Defending Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte struggled in the first half of the 2001 season with two engine failures in the first seven races. Three wrecks along the way damaged any chance he had at a championship repeat. He has been quietly making noise during the second half of the season and has a realistic shot to move up to sixth in points in the final three races. He sees some similarities between Jeff Gordon's 2001 season and his championship season from a year ago. "Last year, going to Homestead was exciting-- going down there thinking we had a shot at it," said Labonte, who clinched the 2000 Winston Cup title at the south Florida track. "Jeff Gordon has done this deal before. It was my first time, so it will probably be different for him. But it's a neat way to capitalize. If he can accomplish winning the championship this year a race or two ahead of the end of the season, it's quite an accomplishment for their team, just like it was with us. That means a lot because your race team as a whole is prepared for the season from the first race to the last. Last weekend (the DuPont team) missed the setup a little bit and didn't run as well as they'd like to. I was like, 'Well, one race out of 36.' I wish I could have had a better average. But those guys have done like what we did the year before and even the year before that." (TSN)
Chevrolet On Top
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (November 6)- - As a result of Joe Nemechek's victory at Rockingham, Chevrolet clinched the manufacturer's title for 2001. Seven different Chevrolet drivers visited victory lane this season. Jeff Gordon led the way with six victories and was the top Chevrolet performer 16 times. Gordon has been the leading Chevrolet winner every season since 1995. "Nothing is sweeter than having a good year and helping to wrap-up the Manufacturers' Championship for Chevrolet," Gordon said. "There is no manufacturer other than Chevrolet that I want to be associated with in Winston Cup racing. They've got the best product out there. It makes me proud to be behind the wheel of a Monte Carlo and it makes me even more proud to be a part of a winning team." It is the manufacturer's 26th championship in NASCAR's highest series and their first since 1998.
Pit Crews Step Up
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (November 3)- - On Saturday, the annual Union 76 Pit Crew Championship was held at the North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, North Carolina. Matt Kenseth's crew set a world record by emptying 14 gallons of gas into the Dewalt Ford and changing four tires in 17.69 seconds breaking the record of 18.355 seconds set last year by Jeff Burton's crew. Jeff Gordon's crew also broke the old record and finished second in the competition with a time of 18.323 seconds. Ken Schrader's crew finished third in 18.950. Burton's team, the defending pit crew champions, completed their stop in 18.081, but were penalized three seconds for having a loose lug nut and finished eighth. Ricky Rudd's crew was disqualified for not having its air gun turned on when the team went over the wall, and Mark Martin's crew was penalized 23 seconds for multiple mistakes, including six loose lug nuts. The top 25 in the owners point standings were eligible to participate. Kenseth's crew took home the $30,000 winner's share plus a $1,000 bonus for setting a new record.
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