2002: Complicated

Season Recap

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.

RaceStartFinishPts Position
Daytona 500399
Subway 4003374
UAW-DaimlerChrysler 40013177
MBNA America 500191611
Carolina Dodge Dealers 400296
Food City 50013110
Samsung/RadioShack 5002626
Virginia 5001238
Aaron's 4991047
NAPA Auto Parts 50017167
Pontiac Excitement 400476
Coca-Cola 6001654
MBNA Platinum 400963
Pocono 500353
Sirius 4002453
Dodge/Save Mart 3504373
Pepsi 4003225
Tropicana 4001524
New England 30011295
Pennsylvania 50028124
Brickyard 4002164
Sirius at the Glen23225
Pepsi 40019195
Sharpie 500113
Southern 500312
Chevrolet 40010404
New Hampshire 30021145
MBNA All-American 40024375
Protection One 4001014
EA Sports 5004427
UAW-GM Quality 500846
Old Dominion 5002366
NAPA 500767
Pop Secret 4001857
Checker Auto Parts 500436
Miami 4003754

3 wins. 4th in points
Sharpie 500
Southern 500
Protection One 400

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