Originally created 02/23/98

Gordon rallies to win Goodwrench 400



ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- Jeff Gordon overcame early handling problems Sunday to surge past the field and win the Goodwrench 400 for the second straight time.

The defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion started fourth but slipped far back into the 43-car field as he struggled with the chassis on his No. 24 Chevy.

After climbing from his winning Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Gordon spoke with crew chief Ray Evernham about the car.

"It was real, real loose at the beginning," Gordon said. "I think everybody out there got to see my sideways because they were all passing me."

It was Gordon's third win at the Rockingham track and the 30th of his Winston Cup career.

Following an adjustment on his third pit stop of the 393-lap race, Gordon suddenly had the fastest car on the 1.017-mile North Carolina Speedway oval. In fewer than 30 laps, he shot from 28th to 13th and then kept moving up.

"We took some time making some big adjustments," Gordon said. "We went one way and it was way off. Then we went completely the other way and it just kept getting better and better."

Gordon took his first lead on lap 199 and then outran a squadron of new Ford Tauruses. He led six times for 73 laps, including the final 31, and averaged 117.065 mph in a race slowed by six cautions for 50 laps.

Without Gordon, the race would have been a sweep for Ford's new model -- the replacement for the discontinued Thunderbird.

Tauruses finished second through seventh and were far better all day than any General Motors product, except Gordon's Monte Carlo.

Rusty Wallace finished second, trailing Gordon across the line by 1.281-seconds -- about 12 car-lengths.

"I'm happy with the car," Wallace said. "On a scale of one to 10, I'd say the Taurus is about an eight right now. ... It ran great, but right there at the end I just got beat."

Wallace took the series points lead by 33 points over Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, who finished a lap down in 17th on Sunday. Two-time series champion Gordon, who was 16th at Daytona thanks to an engine problem near the end, moved to third in the points, two behind Earnhardt.

Mark Martin, who led a race-high 104 laps, finished third, followed by Jimmy Spencer, Geoff Bodine, Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett. Terry Labonte, Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, was eighth in another Monte Carlo.

There were several accidents in the race, including an eight-car melee on lap 365 that began when rookie Steve Park and Ernie Irvan banged together and spun in turn two.

Gordon easily held off Wallace on the restart on lap 372 and was unchallenged the rest of the way.

Goodwrench 400 list

North Carolina Motor SpeedwayRockingham, N.C.

1. (4) Jeff Gordon, Pittsboro, Ind., Chevrolet, 393, $90,090.

2. (7) Rusty Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 393, $49,240.

3. (6) Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark., Ford, 393, $51,940.

4. (28) Jimmy Spencer, Berwick, Pa., Ford, 393, $43,120.

5. (20) Geoff Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 393, $39,225.

6. (16) Bill Elliott, Dawsonville, Ga., Ford, 393, $35,525.

7. (32) Dale Jarrett, Hickory, N.C., Ford, 393, $44,500.

8. (21) Terry Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Chevrolet, 393, $36,625.

9. (33) Bobby Hamilton, Nashville, Tenn., Chevrolet, 393, $31,825.

10. (22) Ricky Craven, Newburgh, Maine, Chevrolet, 393, $36,025.

11. (14) Ward Burton, South Boston, Va., Pontiac, 393, $30,750.

12. (1) Rick Mast, Lexington, Va., Ford, 393, $33,700.

13. (9) John Andretti, Indianapolis, Pontiac, 393, $32,600.

14. (5) Jeremy Mayfield, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 392, $28,400.

15. (35) Derrike Cope, Spanaway, Wash., Pontiac, 392, $29,500.

16. (24) Brett Bodine, Chemung, N.Y., Ford, 392, $28,750.

17. (37) Dale Earnhardt, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet, 392, $32,100.

18. (12) Jeff Burton, South Boston, Va., Ford, 392, $33,500.

19. (40) Ernie Irvan, Salinas, Calif., Pontiac, 391, $26,950.

20. (23) Steve Grissom, Gadsden, Ala., Chevrolet, 391, $28,850.

21. (42) Chad Little, Spokane, Wash., Ford, 391, $19,500.

22. (36) Jeff Green, Whitehouse, Tenn., Chevrolet, 391, $19,100.

23. (31) Ken Schrader, Fenton, Mo., Chevrolet, 391, $28,850.

24. (25) Kyle Petty, Randleman, N.C., Pontiac, 391, $26,650.

25. (27) Sterling Marlin, Columbia, Tenn., Chevrolet, 391, $18,450.

26. (29) Kenny Irwin, Indianapolis, Ford, 390, $31,340.

27. (41) Lake Speed, Jackson, Miss., Ford, 390, $19,340.

28. (34) Jerry Nadeau, Danbury, Conn., Ford, 390, $15,190.

29. (10) Hut Stricklin, Calera, Ala., Chevrolet, 389, $17,515.

30. (8) Johnny Benson, Grand Rapids, Mich., Ford, 388, $14,965.

31. (19) Steve Park, East Northport, N.Y., Chevrolet, 374, $14,765.

32. (18) Mike Skinner, Susanville, Calif., Chevrolet, 366, handling, $14,715.

33. (38) Bobby Labonte, Corpus Christi, Texas, Pontiac, 364, $29,565.

34. (13) Michael Waltrip, Owensboro, Ky., Ford, 363, crash, $21,515.

35. (11) Ted Musgrave, Franklin, Wis., Ford, 363, $21,415.

36. (39) Greg Sacks, Mattituck, N.Y., Ford, 362, $21,390.

37. (15) Dick Trickle, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Ford, 316, radiator, $21,365.

38. (2) Kenny Wallace, St. Louis, Ford, 272, crash, $14,590.

39. (17) Joe Nemechek, Lakeland, Fla., Chevrolet, 269, crash, $21,315.

40. (26) Robert Pressley, Asheville, N.C., Ford, 130, brakes, $14,290.

41. (43) Darrell Waltrip, Franklin, Tenn., Chevrolet, 123, crash, $21,265.

42. (3) David Green, Owensboro, Ky., Chevrolet, 106, crash, $14,340.

43. (30) Ricky Rudd, Chesapeake, Va., Ford, 90, engine failure, $30,615.

Race summary

Time of race: 3 hours, 24 minutes, 51 seconds.

Margin of victory: 1.281-seconds (about 12 car-lengths).

Winner's average speed: 117.065 mph.

Caution flags: 6 for 50 laps.

Lead changes: 27 among 12 drivers.

Lap leaders: Mast 1-52; Benson 53-71; Martin 72-73; Elliott 74-76; Benson 77-91; Jarrett 92-96; Martin 97-107; Jarrett 108; Martin 109-197; R.Wallace 198; Gordon 199; Earnhardt 200; Hamilton 201; Craven 202-207; Jarrett 208; R.Wallace 209-269; Gordon 270; Martin 271-272; Mast 273-278; R.Wallace 279-288; Gordon 289-298; G.Bodine 299-309; Mayfield 310-326; Gordon 327-252; Benson 353-356; Gordon 357-360; R.Wallace 361-362; Gordon 363-393.