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Gordon no longer dominates

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000


The boos are a little quieter and the wins have come less frequently.

Jeff Gordon knew his domination of the Winston Cup series -- 40 wins and three championships from 1995-98 -- would end eventually.

"You don't have that type of success and think that it's going to continue on forever," he said.

A new crew chief (Robbie Loomis), new Chevrolet body-style and nine finishes of 20th or worse have helped to relegate Gordon to ninth in the standings heading into the Pop Secret 400 Sunday at North Carolina Speedway.

"Even if we had made no changes this year and Ray Evernham was still there (as crew chief), it was getting tougher and tougher for us to dominate the way we did," said Gordon, who clinched his third championship by winning the fall race at Rockingham in 1998.

"There are just times when you hit on things. You put a team together and it jells and it comes together and goes extremely well. You try to hold on to it as long as you can. We did that, and now it's time to move on, rebuild and try to get that back and hold on to it as long as we can if we get it back."

Gordon, a three-time winner this season who has finished ninth or better in six of the past seven races, is encouraged by his late-season turnaround and said no major changes will be made to the team before next season.

"We just need to look and find our weaknesses," he said. "We've already done a lot of that this year."

COUNTING DOWN: Dodge held its first superspeedway test of the Intrepid Monday and Tuesday at Talladega, less than five months before the start of the 2001 Winston Cup season.

Bill Elliott (Evernham Motorsports), Sterling Marlin (Team SABCO), Stacy Compton (Melling Racing) and Buckshot Jones (Petty Enterprises) took part in the test session.

"As long as I feel we're moving forward every day, I feel satisfied," Evernham, who owns the two-car team of Elliott and Casey Atwood, told the Charlotte Observer. "If we go out of the Daytona 500 without the results we are hoping for, as long as I know we did the very best that I could, I'm okay with that."

Dodge teams will test next from Oct. 31-Nov. 1 at Daytona International Speedway, followed by Nov. 6-8 at Las Vegas and Nov. 14-16 back at Talladega.

NOT A FORMALITY: The Malaysian Grand Prix may be an extended victory lap for freshly crowned Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, but not for his team.

A good finish by Schumacher and Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello could give Ferrari its first constructors championship since 1979.

Ferrari is 13 points ahead of rival McLaren in the standings with one race remaining.

If McLaren drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard finish from first to third place and Ferrari's drivers do not, McLaren wins the constructors title.

But if Schumacher or Barrichello score at least three points or a McLaren car doesn't win the race, Ferrari wins its fourth title.

PIT STOPS: Since 1996, Dale Jarrett has finished second in six races at Rockingham but never has won a race there. ... More than 3-million viewers watched the Winston 500 on Sunday, according to Nielsen Media Research. ... Busch Grand National driver Jeff Green, who leads the standings by 526 points, could clinch the championship if he gains 29 points on teammate Jason Keller. ... While Tony Schumacher recovers from a broken left leg, teammate Melanie Troxel will drive his Top Fuel dragster at the O'Reilly Nationals this weekend at Texas Motorplex. Bill Walsh, a crewman for the team and three-time Top Alcohol Dragster champion, will drive Troxel's car. ... Five-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson has won four eliminators at the Texas Motorplex and advanced to the final round six times.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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