Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One More Chance to Catch Gordon

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One More Chance to Catch Gordon

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Jeff Gordon has relied on his right foot to forge one

of the most dominant seasons in NASCAR's past 25 years. Now, he

needs to use his head in Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor

Speedway.

Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin trail in the Winston Cup

championship chase by 77 and 88 points, respectively. Each must

summon the bravado to go fullbore in the $1.5 million season

finale.

What makes the climax particularly intriguing is that

reconfigured and repaved AMS presents a challenge to everyone.

The 1.544-mile quad-oval is unfamiliar and treacherously fast,

and those who are too conservative or too aggressive could pay

dearly.

"The track is very fast -- maybe too fast," Gordon said. "There

is no similarity to the old Atlanta at all. We're just plain

flying around here."

Gordon is assured of his second championship if he finishes in

the top 18. He must decide whether to try to qualify high and

race out front -- which could stress his equipment at such high

speeds -- or play it cautious and finish in the top 18. If he

takes the latter approach, he risks getting caught up in a

crash, which is possible because of the narrow margin for error.

Jarrett suggests the circumstances favor the pursuer, and he

envisions himself overcoming Gordon's lead.

"I believe we can maybe go back to the 1996 Masters, where Nick

Faldo was maybe seven [actually six] shots behind Greg Norman,

but it did happen," Jarrett said. "You had two of the greatest

players in the world, and one was trying to protect the lead and

another was doing everything he could to come from behind. It

does happen."

Martin, already a runner-up twice this decade for the title, is

more pragmatic.

"Sure, we like to think things can happen for us and we're

taking the approach [that] things will happen for us," he said.

"But pretty much all Jeff has to do is keep from falling off a

ladder to win the thing."

Championship or bust, Gordon has already put together one of

the most impressive seasons in the modern era (post-1972). …

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