NASCAR Cup Series
Despite '08 troubles, Gordon set to contend for title
NASCAR Cup Series

Despite '08 troubles, Gordon set to contend for title

Published Feb. 23, 2009 9:20 p.m. ET

For the last 17 seasons, NASCAR fans have watched Jeff Gordon grow up in front of their eyes.

Since winning his first Cup championship in 1995, Gordon's voice has held authority. When outspoken, his arguments are calculated and smoothly delivered. When he or his team's ability or determination is questioned, the response remains positive and upbeat.

Sunday night's postrace comments by the second-place finisher at Auto Club Speedway carried a similar tone, yet with an enthusiasm that was so genuine it was apparent that the old Jeff Gordon was back.

Looking back


Starts Wins Top fives Top 10s Poles
547 81 248 337 67

Gordon graciously congratulated winner Matt Kenseth, but the confidence of the four-time champion beamed with the expectation that a fifth title could be just 34 races away.

"We were awesome in every way tonight with this DuPont Chevrolet," Gordon said."I'm really excited on one side and I'm really upset on the other because I felt like we had an opportunity to win this race."

Gordon not only had an opportunity to win the Auto Club 500, he skillfully picked off one car at a time beginning with his teammate Jimmie Johnson on Lap 78 after the No. 48 Chevrolet had dominated by leading 74 laps prior to being passed in Turn 2.

Gordon then challenged both Kenseth and his teammate Greg Biffle, who led the charge among the Roush Fenway racers. Biffle radioed to his crew that Gordon "murdered" him through Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 140 as he watched the No. 24 car carve its way around the track. When Gordon was in clean air at the point, Kenseth had similar issues catching him through Turns 1 and 2.

But a swift final pit stop with adjustments to improve the No. 17 car's grip enabled Kenseth to retake the lead out of the pits and maintain that position to the finish. Gordon couldn't get the car to turn in the closing laps, but his ability to work every groove on the track was amazing.

"I put a lot of heat on him," Gordon said. "I drove as hard as I've driven in a long time."

Gordon lost the battle, but the war is far from over. He was strong during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, showing signs of improvement from winning his Gatorade Duels qualifying race to leading 14 laps in the Daytona 500 before the rain-shortened event left him in 13th place.


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