If you were at Atlanta Motor Speedway on November 15th, 1992 for the running of the Hooters 500 you were a witness to history. You saw Bill Elliot win the race and yet lose the season championship to Alan Kulwicki because Kulwicki led one more lap in that race than did Elliot. It was that close! You also witnessed the final race for Richard Petty as a driver. He finished in 35th, 233 laps down after mechanical problems sidelined him early.
But one small piece of history that you may have not even noticed was the fact that this was also the very first Cup race for a young rookie named Jeff Gordon. You wouldn?t have paid much attention to him because he started 21st, crashed, and finished 31st, and ran only 164 of the race?s 328 laps.
On this past Sunday at Pocono International Raceway, the now veteran Jeff Gordon scored NASCAR Cup win number 84, placing him in a tie for third place on NASCAR?s all time win list with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. In the entire history of NASCAR there are now only two men who have won more races than Gordon; the aforementioned Richard Petty with 200 wins, and David Pearson who has 105.
Of course there are some, including Bobby Allison himself, who will tell you that Allison has 85 wins. It seems there was a race in 1971 at Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC that had a short field of cars and so NASCAR decided to allow the smaller Grand American cars to run with the larger Grand Nationals to make up the difference. Allison brought in a borrowed 1970 Mustang feeling that it would work better on a track as small as the tiny quarter mile of Bowman-Gray. Of course he won the race but NASCAR decided they couldn?t award a Grand National win to a Grand American car so they named second place finisher Richard Petty as the winner of the race.
But I digress.
Whether you believe the mark is 84 or 85 races, the fact is that there?s no reason to think that Jeff Gordon can?t eclipse both Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison easily before his career is over and put himself in sole possession of third all time. It only takes two more wins.
Gordon reached 84 wins in fewer starts than Allison but more than Waltrip. Allison?s final win came in the 1988 Daytona 500 after 706 starts while Waltrip last won at Darlington in 1992 after 566 starts. Gordon now has 631 starts.
How many more races will Gordon run? It?s a pretty sure bet he won?t even talk about retiring until after he gets win number 86. It?s not likely he could get to Pearson?s 105 wins so anytime after 86 would be a milestone that would stand for a long time and guarantee him a future place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
So, if you weren?t at Atlanta that history making day in 1992, you still have a chance to be witness to a major event in NASCAR history. There?s no way to know when the next two wins will come for Jeff Gordon, but when it happens it will rewrite the record book and you won?t want to miss it!
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