Gordon Doing Fine

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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Jeff Gordon doesn't want to go through many more seasons like the one he has endured this year.

With only four races remaining heading into today's Pop Secret 400 at North Carolina Speedway and the NASCAR Winston Cup championship race on the line, Gordon is nowhere to be found. In fact, he has already been mathematically eliminated from this year's title chase.

About the only thing left for Gordon to do is go out win races and hope to score enough points to stay in the Top 10. That's certainly not the scenario the three-time Winston Cup champion envisioned at the beginning of the season.

A ninth-place standing in the points race with only three victories are simply not the standards Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet team have become accustomed to through the years.

"Yeah, in some ways, it's been a different type of year for me," said Gordon. "I've been more involved with the team, more involved with the decision making. Just seeing it grow and seeing it come together has been very satisfying for me. I've also learned not to judge my happiness and my peace of mind on what happens on Sunday because you know not every weekend are you going to be happy with your results on the track.

"I've just come to realize that racing is a part of my life, but it doesn't run my life. I have had a great year. I've enjoyed myself many times this year, but not all of them have been on Sunday. You've got to take the good with the bad."

There is no doubt that Gordon has become more hands-on with his Chevy after the departure of former crew chief Ray Evernham, who is spearheading Dodge's return to Winston Cup in 2001. Instead of just hopping in and driving the car, Gordon is now working closely with DuPont crew chief Robbie Loomis in finding out what the car is doing and why.

"Earlier in the year we weren't running competitive enough," Gordon said. "The car just didn't handle well, didn't feel the way I wanted it to feel and didn't have the balance. Some of that was the way I was driving the car, and some of it was how we set the car up and how we put bodies on the car."

Many in the Winston Cup garage area believe Gordon and the other Hendrick Motorsports teams have simply had a hard time adapting to the new Monte Carlo. Gordon's three-victory season, however, leads all other GM drivers.

Gordon's teammate and two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte is running 19th in the points standings, but has not recorded a victory this season. Their teammate, Jerry Nadeau, is running 22nd in the points.

"We have learned a lot about the new Monte Carlo and getting more horsepower," Gordon said. "There have been new set-ups that have come along. Those things we had in the past just don't work the way they used to. Now we have a pretty good idea of where we're going.

".... Considering all the changes we've made and the struggles we had earlier in the season, I'm pretty proud of the way we've come through some of the not so good runs and the way we've really come around here recently with some good finishes.

"We certainly haven't hidden the fact that this is a rebuilding year for us. There have been some real frustrating times, but there have been some highlights, too, that have us very optimistic about what we're going to be able to do during the off-season for next year."

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