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Gordon nips Earnhardt as 'Driver of the Decade'
'99 News
Art Weinstein

Charlotte, N.C. (Dec. 16, 1999)
If all NASCAR Winston Cup races were this incredibly, improbably close at the finish, track officials would need to hand out complementary pacemakers to fans.

After receiving hundreds of ballots, through more than two months of voting, NASCAR Winston Cup Scene readers' choice for "Driver of the 1990s" was in the end decided by a single vote. And as it turns out, that vote arrived in the very last piece of fan mail.

In a contest that evoked memories of Jeff Gordon's thrilling win over Dale Earnhardt in the 1999 Daytona 500, Gordon was the readers' choice as Driver of the 1990s, with Earnhardt a single vote back. Each driver picked up slightly less than 38 percent of the vote.

A strong case could be made for both drivers. Earnhardt, a seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion, won four of those titles in the '90s (1990-91 and 1993-94). Gordon, of course, has three titles, in 1995, '97 and '98. However, during the '90s Gordon had more wins -- 49, to Earnhardt's 40 -- and more Bud Poles -- 30 to 14 -- and only eight fewer top-5s (Earnhardt leads that category 126-118) despite not starting his career full time until '93.

Finishing third behind Gordon and Earnhardt in the balloting for Driver of the 1990s was Mark Martin, with 14 percent of the vote.

Fourth place in the balloting was 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Dale Jarrett, with 5 percent. Four other drivers each scored 1 percent of the vote: The late Davey Allison, Petty, Ernie Irvan and Terry Labonte. Other drivers receiving votes included Rusty Wallace and the late Alan Kulwicki.