Jeff Gordon began the 2003 season looking to bounce back from an inconsistent 2002 season.
However, the first three races of the season produced disappointing results. He was shuffled
out of the draft just before the rains came to shorten the Daytona 500, going from second
all the way back to 12th. A week later at Rockingham he was involved in a chain-reaction
spin on the frontstretch and finished 15th. He looked to Las Vegas as an opportunity to gain
momentum early in the season. A mid-race spin by Mike Skinner collected Gordon in turn two. Heavy
damage to the front of the car resulted in a 37th place effort. A runner-up finish at Atlanta
boosted Gordon in the top-10 in the points standings. At Darlington an out of character late race
driving mistake while leading damaged the right front of the car. A 33rd place finish was the end
The DuPont team regrouped and put together a string of four consecutive top-10 finishes which culimated with a dominating victory at Martinsville Speedway. As spring turned to summer, Gordon began chipping away at the points leader. A runner-up finish at Dover, a third-place effort at Michigan, and a strong second-place run at Sonoma thrust Gordon up to second in the points standings as the series reached its late June break.
June was a transition month for Gordon. His divorce proceedings were finalized which relieved his mind (and his bank account) of a lingering burden. In the racing world Gordon was able to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams. In mid-June he traveled to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to turn a few practice laps in Juan Montoya's F1 car. Within a few circuits around the Indy road course he was turning laps just outside of the starting grid for the U.S. Grand Prix. Which left many wondering "what if..."
Back in the NASCAR world, the summer was an arduous time for Gordon. After dominating the race at Loudon in July, a late race four-tire change saw Gordon lose track position and finish 24th. A week later he was battling in heavy traffic when a chain-reaction crash sent him spinning into the turn three wall. A fourth place finish at the Brickyard gave the team a brief respite, but things continued on a downward spiral. He won the pole position at Watkins Glen but was tapped from behind by Greg Biffle in the first turn and dropped back to 43rd place. He rallied up to third place but ran out of gas on the final lap. Coming to the finish line he was hit by Kevin Harvick and spun into the outside guardrail. Unable to restart the car he was credited with a 33rd place. An ill-time cut tire at Michigan put him a lap down and resulted in a 30th place finish. Gordon captured the pole position at Bristol but was again involved in a chain-reaction crash in the mid-stages of the race. A 28th place finish and a drop to fifth in the points standings was the outcome. He had hoped for better fortunes in September but the month got off to a rough start at Darlington. Battling race traffic he was tapped by Casey Mears going into turn three and spun backwards up the track resulting in heavy damage to the front and rear of the car. A 32nd place finish in the Southern 500 removed him from legitimate title contention.
As summer gave way to fall, Gordon's finishes began improving. Four consecutive fifth place finishes at Dover, Talladega, Kansas City, and Charlotte preceded back-to-back victories at Martinsville and Atlanta. Gordon swept both Martinsville races in dominating fashion but needed a late race pass on Bobby Labonte to take the lead at Atlanta. A caution in the closing laps allowed Gordon to hold off a charging Tony Stewart for his 64th career victory. Gordon concluded the season with a seventh place finish at Phoenix, a disappointing 22nd place effort at Rockingham after battling handling issues, and a solid fifth place finish in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For the second consecutive season, Gordon posted three victories and finished fourth in the series points standings. He also led the most laps of any driver in NASCAR's top series. An above average season by most standards, but not a championship-caliber year. Inconsistency hurt Gordon's chances in 2003. The 2004 Nextel Cup championship will come down to consistent finishes on a weekly basis; something that has eluded Jeff Gordon in the past two seasons.
|Bass Pro Shops/MBNA 500||30||2||8|
|Food City 500||2||9||10|
|Auto Club 500||14||11||3|
|Dodge/Save Mart 350||8||2||2|
|New England 300||2||24||2|
|Sirius at the Glen||1||33||3|
|GFS Marketplace 400||21||30||3|
|MBNA America 400||6||5||6|
|EA Sports 500||5||5||6|
|Pop Secret 400||16||22||5|
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