Jeff Gordon serves notice at Atlanta -- in a big way

Jeff Gordon made two strong statements in Tuesday's rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway--one for history and one for the immediate future.

Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon's victory in Tuesday's AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta was one for the history books -- and a strong statement about his chances to win a fifth Sprint Cup championship. (John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon made two strong statements in Tuesday's rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway--one for history and one for the immediate future.

In one of the most scintillating teammate-vs.-teammate battles on record, Gordon held off Jimmie Johnson to win the race, as both drivers slid sideways around the 1.54-mile track as the laps ticked down.

The victory was Gordon's 85th in the Sprint Cup Series, breaking a tie for third on the all-time win list with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. In what already has been a Hall of Fame career twice over, Gordon reminded us he deserves a back seat to no one when talent behind the wheel of a racecar is measured.

"To win 85 is unbelievable," Gordon said after a lengthy celebration in victory lane. "And to do it here at Atlanta. I'm not sure really (how to) rank everything, because the significance of this win today, the timing of it, doing it here in Atlanta on such a tough racetrack, battling with Jimmie, the bonus points, the 85th win, the momentum that this team has got right now and the racecars we're taking to the racetrack.

"Man, this is cool."


Roughly a month removed from his 40th birthday, Gordon also reminded us he will be a formidable player in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Gordon won his fourth Cup title in 2001. Then he recruited Johnson to Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon hasn't won a championship since, but he has come close, most notably in 2007 when Johnson won four straight races late in the Chase to deny his teammate. "I've been trying to step it up for 10 years," Gordon said. "I think that the Chase format is definitely more challenging. I feel like we've had good years, and even when I go back to ... what was it? ... '07 when we battled with Jimmie and won races in the Chase and everything else, but we still couldn't get it done."

Paired with new crew chief Alan Gustafson this season, Gordon announced loudly Tuesday that he has the ammunition he needs to win the Sprint Cup. From the way he drove the final 10 laps, no one can doubt the level of his desire.

"To me, it was more about how can I play a role as a driver and give the feedback to Alan and his group and get myself settled in with this team and make sure that I'm doing the job that I'm capable of doing and that I feel like they think that I'm capable of doing," Gordon said.

"And so it's been a new relationship. And there's excitement that comes along with that and kind of you can sort of start over. And that felt really good in a way, because I saw the excitement in the guys' eyes in the shop when I walked in there the first couple of times.

"Now to be able to build on that and show those results has only made us a stronger team. So it all comes down to ... it's not about me just deciding one day I'm going to step it up or not step it up. It's that I've got to do my job, and they've got to do their jobs, and we've got to come together and build chemistry and connect and just be on the same page when it comes to running races. And that's what I love about this group and Alan and these guys."

With the confidence and equipment to go with his talent, Gordon faces the 10 Chase races with his best chance to win since 2001--and to add to the history he has already written.

What To Read Next
The 28th induction ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, May 4.
NASCAR on Ice, an ice racing event featuring NASCAR drivers and retired cars, was postponed a second time on Wednesday due to ice conditions.
Ice cross racers are competing in three divisions during multiple days of competition at Mont du Lac Resort in Superior as part of the U.S. Ice Cross Association's annual ATSX 250 event.
Three-day Ski de She camp and clinic in Cable will include Olympic champion Kikkan Randall.