Jeff Gordon's 2002 season had its share of ups and downs-- both personally
and professionally. The DuPont team arrived in Daytona
to begin their title defense with a special paint scheme in honor of DuPont's 200th Anniversary.
Jeff Gordon won the 125-mile Qualifying race but an ill-advised late race block
on Sterling Marlin sent him spinning through the infield grass in the Daytona 500.
He recovered to finish ninth but it would be a sign of things to come.
He failed to post a top-five finish through the first six races of the season.
During the race weekend in Darlington in mid-March it was announced that Brooke Gordon
had filed for divorce. With his marriage of seven years becoming fodder
for shady news-magazine TV shows, Gordon
focused in on something he does extraordinarily well-- driving race cars.
After an uncharacteristic spin at Bristol, Gordon bounced back with a second-place finish at Texas. Though inconsitency plagued his efforts throughout the season. After the second place run at Texas he finished 23rd at Martinsville after losing power steering. A fourth place run in Talladega followed but he finished 16th at California after a piece of plastic got onto the grill opening late in the race. However, it was one of his happiest 16th place finishes as he made his way to victory lane to congratulate Jimmie Johnson on his first Winston Cup victory. Gordon's teammate in every sense of the word took the NASCAR world by storm in 2002 by winning three races and battling for the Winston Cup title. His season only reaffirmed the depth of the Hendrick Motorsports organization and Gordon's keen eye for talent. Throughout the latter part of 2001, Gordon was locked in sponsor negotiations with Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse trying to sell the company on the idea that Johnson would win races. Though nobody could have foreseen three victories and a fifth place finish in the points standings in his rookie season.
Gordon made his way back into the title picture with five straight top-ten finishes from mid-May thru mid-June and had climbed to within 82 points of the Winston Cup points lead. However, a broken rear gear at Sonoma and a flat tire at Daytona in July sent him back down the ladder.
As July turned to August, Gordon struggled with week-to-week consistency. He finished second at Chicagoland, but posted four finishes outside of the top-12 in the next five races. He broke his season-long winless streak at Bristol with a bump pass on Rusty Wallace with three laps remaining. Riding the momentum from the thrilling win, he dominated the following week at Darlington en route to his fifth career Southern 500 victory. But once again, just as he looked to be back in title contention, inconsistency loomed. A broken camshaft at Richmond, a wreck at Dover due mainly to a poor qualifying effort, a blown engine at Talladega, and a wreck at Martinsville crippled his title hopes down the stretch. Though he did score a victory at Kansas in late September, his season was plagued by inconsistency. He did end the season on a positive note by racking up four consecutive top-six finishes. Following the conclusion of the Winston Cup season, he joined Johnson and Motocross ace Colin Edwards to represent the USA in the Nations Cup-- an annual rally-sprint race among nine countries held in Gran Canaria off the coast of Morocco. The trio of Gordon, Johnson, and Edwards captured the Nations Cup with a thrilling final round against Italy.
Gordon's qualifying average in 2002 (14th) was his lowest since his rookie season of 1993. With track position being a coveted commodity, starting in the middle of the pack can make for an arduous run to the front. For all of the off-track distractions that Gordon dealt with in 2002, he managed to win three races and finish fourth in the series points standings. Not a bad year by any stretch, but not a championship caliber season. As 2003 beckons, the team's focus is on regaining what they lost in 2002-- the Winston Cup championship.
|MBNA America 500||19||16||11|
|Carolina Dodge Dealers 400||2||9||6|
|Food City 500||1||31||10|
|NAPA Auto Parts 500||17||16||7|
|Pontiac Excitement 400||4||7||6|
|MBNA Platinum 400||9||6||3|
|Dodge/Save Mart 350||4||37||3|
|New England 300||11||29||5|
|Sirius at the Glen||23||22||5|
|New Hampshire 300||21||14||5|
|MBNA All-American 400||24||37||5|
|Protection One 400||10||1||4|
|EA Sports 500||4||42||7|
|UAW-GM Quality 500||8||4||6|
|Old Dominion 500||2||36||6|
|Pop Secret 400||18||5||7|
|Checker Auto Parts 500||4||3||6|
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