In 1998, the Rainbow Warriors upped the ante. As Pat Riley wrote in The Winner Within, "Upping the ante turns mastery into
unbeatable excellence." That's exactly what Jeff Gordon and the DuPont team did in 1998. After dropping a cylinder at Daytona and finishing 16th,
the team rebounded with a victory at Rockingham. However, after three finishes outside of the top 15 in the first four races,
there was some concern. Jeff rebounded with a strong run at Darlington before winning at Bristol. After a few more
top ten performances, the month of May rolled around. On the last lap of the Winston all star race at Charlotte, Gordon ran out
of gas on the final lap. Crew chief Ray Evernham took the blame. Showing the mark of a champion, he came back and won the pole position for the Coca Cola 600 a few days later dedicating it to his crew chief.
He then went out and won the Coca Cola 600 and followed that up with a strong third place effort at Dover. After "one of those racin deals" with Rusty Wallace
at Richmond, the team got mad. Turning anger into determination, Gordon had a summer that rocked the NASCAR world.
Following Richmond, he finished in the top 5 in 17 consecutive events. He trailed in the points standings before Sears Point in June. By Labor Day, it would be his title to lose. He won at Sears Point in late June and then won four consecutive races from late July to mid August picking up wins at Pocono, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Michigan. The Indianapolis victory gave him a $1,000,000 bonus from Winston. In addition, he swept both events on road courses by winning at Sears Point and Watkins Glen.
After coming from behind to win at New Hampshire in late August, rival owner Jack Roush accused Gordon's team of cheating. Tests were conducted and the DuPont team was exonerated. Roush claimed the 24 team had a "special ingredient." Yeah, they have a special ingredient that other teams don't. The special ingredient stands 5'7" and weighs about 150 pounds.
On Labor Day weekend, Jeff won another $1,000,000 bonus by winning his fourth consecutive Southern 500. Gordon averted near disaster at Charlotte in early October after getting clipped by Terry Labonte during a multi car wreck. He would go on to finish fifth and head into the two superspeedway races with a commanding lead. But, anything could happen at Talladega and Daytona.
At Talladega, bad racing luck actually saved Jeff from being involved in a major wreck which claimed numerous cars including title rival Mark Martin. Gordon had pitted just before a caution flag came out. He found himself at the tail end of the lead lap and was in front of the "big wreck." Under the lights at Daytona, Gordon dominated. He won the Pepsi 400 while Martin finished 16th virtually assuring himself of the 1998 title.
In November, a victory at Rockingham wrapped up the 1998 Winston Cup championship. In previous seasons, Gordon struggled in October and November. However, in 1998, that wasn't the case. In the season finale at Atlanta, Gordon won the marathon race delayed numerous times by rain for his modern era record tying 13th victory of the year. In 1998, Jeff Gordon and the Rainbow Warriors raised the stakes and upped the ante. To quote Riley once again, "if you raise the ante, make sure you are flush with resources and drive. You'll have to be prepared to wager the team's total wherewithal- and yours too- to win dynasty stakes." In 1998, they did just that.
|Las Vegas 400||5||17||6|
|Food City 500||2||1||3|
|Coca Cola 600||1||1||1|
|Miller Lite 400||4||3||2|
|Save Mart 350||1||1||1|
|Jiffy Lube 300||2||3||1|
|Bud at the Glen||1||1||1|
|Dura Lube 500||12||7||1|
|AC Delco 400||9||1||*1|
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