The Callahan Report: Gordon Continues to Terrorize NASCAR's Top Series

9 August 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

Jeff Gordon
WATKINS GLEN, NY: For the third week in-a-row, Jeff Gordon made his way to victory lane Sunday. This time it was The Bud at The Glen NASCAR Winston Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

The Bud at The Glen is the second of two road races on the Winston Cup circuit. Gordon won both road racing events this year. In fact, he has won the last three NASCAR road races. Gordon won at Watkins Glen in 1997. He was also the winner at Sears Point Raceway earlier this year.

The 27 year old super-star had to work hard to earn his victory Sunday. After leading the early stages of the race, Gordon found himself in the middle of the pack after a late race pit stop. His two strongest competitors, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace, beat Gordon out of the pits by more than three seconds. Complicating things further, many teams opted to use fuel conservation strategies late in the race. Gordon charged from 15th position to the front of the pack in the final 31 laps.

Gordon passed Martin on lap 80 of the 90 lap race. He moved past Wallace two laps later. Gordon thought he was in the lead. He was informed that Mike Skinner was six seconds ahead of him. Skinner was one of the drivers who were stretching their fuel. Gordon set his sights on Skinner and quickly reeled him in. With three laps remaining, Gordon easily passed Skinner to take the lead for the final time.

"I didn't know I had to race Mike Skinner until there were five laps to go," said the defending Winston Cup Champion. "I thought I was racing Mark and Rusty. Once Mark and Rusty got ahead of us, they got to racing each other pretty hard and slipped a few places.

Gordon continued, "Our car worked really good out front. Being behind them was really tough. I thought if I could get out there and get away from them, everything would be ok."

Jeff Gordon continues to write one of the best resumes in racing history. He has won on super- speedways, short tracks, and road courses. Considering his age, he has a long way to go before his career is complete. His expertise has left the competition scratching their heads. Mark Martin commented after the race, "Jeff was a smart driver today. He gave us a driving lesson. He is just awesome. My boys tried to win it on a pit stop, but I couldn't close the deal. We have a good race team but, I don't know, Jeff Gordon may win them all."

The moves made by Gordon on his way back to the front were daring but skillful. Gordon said, "Sometimes you take chances. I felt pretty good about it. I didn't think there was going to be a wreck or anything. In the closing laps, you do what you have to do. I said, ‘Hey, if I'm going to win, now's the time to do it.'"

Martin was able to get past Wallace and Skinner to finish second behind Gordon. Martin has finished second behind Gordon the last three races.

Skinner was able to nurse his fuel mileage to a third place finish. It was the best finish of his career in a points paying event. Skinner won the NASCAR exhibition road course event in Japan in November of last year.

Skinner was pleased with his outcome, saying, "Brilliant, brilliant race calling and fuel strategy. You know, I probably could have won the race. But I let off. I was trying to give them a second a lap. Larry (McReynolds, Skinner's Crew Chief) said, ‘We can't make it on fuel if you don't buy us some fuel mileage.' I really just took it easy. A top five's better than running out (of fuel) on the backstretch."

Rounding out the top five were Rusty Wallace in fourth, followed by Dale Jarrett in fifth. Gordon's margin of victory was 3.4 seconds. He gained another ten points in the championship race. Gordon lead Martin by 82 points heading to Michigan for the DeVilbiss 400 next weekend.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in The Racing Image Galleries and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.

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