Gordon Wants Throne Back

DOVER, Del. – For a brief period of time in the mid-1990s, Dover Downs International Speedway could have been labeled “Jeff Gordon’s place.”

For four straight NASCAR Winston Cup Series events in 1995 and 1996, Gordon either won a pole or a race at the “Monster Mile” and was considered the driver to beat whenever the series made a visit to the Delaware venue.

That no longer seems to be the case with the emergence of Tony Stewart as the track’s master the past couple of years. That’s something that doesn’t sit well with Gordon, who hasn’t been to victory lane at Dover since the fall of 1996.

Despite his decline in performance here in recent years, however, Gordon will still be among the favorites in the MBNA Platinum 400, which starts shortly after 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

“We struggled a bit in our rookie year at Dover (1993), but all of a sudden we hit on our setup and went on a tear,” said Gordon, who will start second in Sunday’s race. “The setup we used when they first put down the concrete (1995) also worked well for us.

“We just used that basic setup and fine-tuned each time. We need to get back to that level of consistency at Dover because recently it’s been up and down.”

After winning at Dover in the fall of 1995 and both the fall and the spring of 1996, Gordon has finished in the Top 5 at Dover three times in eight races, including second-place finishes in the fall of 1998 and the spring of 1999.

Gordon then handed the dominance baton at Dover over to Mark Martin, who, in 1997 through 1999, won three of six races there, all in the fall. Martin finished out of the Top 5 just once in those six events.

Stewart seems to be the new king of the “Monster Mile,” winning both races last year while Gordon finished 20 laps down in 32nd place in the spring and ninth in the fall, the last car on the lead lap.

Stewart has not finished worse than fourth in four career starts at Dover Downs.

Until the Coca-Cola 600 last Sunday, Gordon had been on a tear and had crept to within 14 points of Dale Jarrett in the Winston Cup driver standings. He won The Winston all-star race the previous week with a backup car, and critics once again began singing his praises.

A 29th-place finish at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, however, dropped him another 61 points behind Jarrett. He hasn’t been to victory lane in a race that counts since early March.

“Everybody seems to think we’re back after what happened in The Winston,” Gordon said. “To win The Winston in a backup car with no practice laps on it shows how prepared this team really is.

“We’ve run in the Top 5 in each race this year but have had a few bad finishes. We haven’t won a points race since Las Vegas. We finished second at California and Richmond, but we really want to get back to victory lane. And what better time than this weekend in front of all the DuPont employees and fans.”

DuPont, Gordon’s sponsor, has its main headquarters in nearby Wilmington, Del.

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