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Gordon still awed by Earnhardt
'99 News
Jim Utter

Talladega, Ala. (Oct. 19, 1999)
Jeff Gordon is a three-time Winston Cup champion. He's won races at Daytona, Talladega and all but three tracks on the current series schedule.

But Gordon says he still takes lessons from Dale Earnhardt, the one driver who makes winning on the Winston Cup series' fastest tracks look easy.

Gordon seemed the dominant car for most of Sunday's Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and led the most laps. But he continued to get shuffled out of the draft, and it happened again late in the race, giving him a 12th-place finish.

Earnhardt, on the other hand, completed a season sweep of the series' two stops at Talladega, taking the checkered flag ahead of series points leader Dale Jarrett.

``Earnhardt's the best there is and that's why he wins races. He knows how to position himself, how to use air, how to use the other cars and he knows where to be at the right time at the right place,'' Gordon said. ``I don't know how he does it. I watch him in awe.

``I try to learn as much from him as I can. You saw the first half of the race, we were dominant,'' he said. ``We were there. The second half of the race we lost a little bit of track position and never could seem to get it back.''

Gordon made a move on Jarrett late in the race hoping to catch the lead one last time. He could never complete the pass, however, and was shuffled back in the lineup.

``It was probably a mistake on my part,'' Gordon said. ``I probably should have waited, but I felt much more comfortable out front. I knew I could hold them off if I could get out front.

``I was there in second, kind of a sitting duck. Those guys were coming pretty fast. I went to make a move on Jarrett, got to his left rear and then (Kevin) Lepage got to the outside of me and it was all over from there. I was just trying to get back to the top 10 after that.''

Gordon didn't lose any positions in the Winston Cup points race. He remains in fourth - 115 behind third-place Mark Martin and 188 behind second-place Bobby Labonte. With four races remaining, Gordon still has the possibility of finishing as high as second.

``(Crew chief) Brian Whitesell and I have a good relationship,'' Gordon said. ``Now, we're working closer together and things couldn't be better. I'm excited about the calls he makes and the way he handles himself and the way he handles this team.

``We're having a ball right now.''