Originally created 07/13/97

Gordon has ground to gain in race

LOUDON, N.H. -Jeff Gordon put his Winston Cup points lead in jeopardy with a "horrible" qualifying run, and entered Jiffy Lube 300 in his worst starting position of the season.

Gordon will begin the race today (1 p.m., TNN) at New Hampshire International Speedway in the 29th position, six spots worse than his 23rd at Atlanta when he failed to finish for the only time this season.

Ken Schrader starts on the point - his first pole in two years, after posting a one-lap speed of 129.423 mph Friday over the 1.058-mile oval.

Bobby Hamilton will be alongside him, with Ricky Craven and Chad Little in the second row.

Gordon, who has won seven times this season, enters the race with a 54-point lead over teammate Terry Labonte, who will be starting 19 places ahead of him. Excluding extra points for laps led, that difference in finish alone would be good enough for Labonte to take over the lead.

The only time Gordon has started lower in his five Winston Cup years was 30th at Talladega as a rookie in 1993 when he finished 11th, and 40th at Talladega in 1994, when he wound up 24th.

Gordon blamed himself for his plight.

"I really thought I had it under control, but when I got in the corner, the back end just came around and I went up two or three lanes," he said after his qualifying try Friday. "It was a horrible lap. That's the worst qualifying effort I've had all year long."

He was clocked in 127.786.

Crew chief Ray Evernham was willing to share half the blame.

"If he lost five-tenths (of a second), I'll take half and he can take half," he said.

He said he feels the No. 24 Chevy is better than 29th, but it's still a long way to make up.

"In our world, every inch can make a difference ... sure, we're worried about it," he said.

But Gordon has made up almost that much at New Hampshire. Two years ago, he came from 21st at the start to win, with the help of a little Evernham strategy.

While other crews changed four tires on two cautions, Evernham changed only two on Gordon's car, putting him back on the track faster to make up ground.

But he'll have to think of something else today.

"Everyone has figured that out since then," he said.


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