Work in Sports
Drivers enter Coca-Cola 600 week with rough outline
Updated: Tuesday May 22, 2001 10:54 AM
By Stephen Thomas, CNNSI.com
CONCORD, N.C. -- There is more than one way to skin a cat, and depending on how you choose to attack said feline, either fully one of every four Winston winners goes on the win the following race, the Coca-Cola 600, or, just four drivers have managed the double.
Regardless, it's probably worth noting that Jeff Gordon, this year's Winston winner, is one of those four (Darrell Waltrip, Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt are the others).
The Winston does provide certain benefits to those poor unfortunates who do not win it. It offers drivers a chance to go to school for the 600. Sure any race helps educate teams, but at no other time during the season are the lessons applied as quickly.
It's true that the majority of teams that competed in The Winston have run extensively at Charlotte and in past 600s, and, therefore, have a databank of information on which to base their race setups. However, as they have at every track and in every race thus far this year, the new Goodyear tire throws a curve at a team's carefully-laid plans.
So if The Winston was a financial disappointment to 20 guys, it did, at least, give them a brief look into how their car will be affected by the new compound.
"I believe there are some things that we did learn that are going to help us [next Sunday]," said one-time 600 winner Dale Jarrett. "Hopefully, we're not going to be running at 1:00 a.m. next week, but, once it got dark, we saw a lot of things with this new tire that aren't going to work. [Guys] were really loose and weren't driving very good and I think it helped us see a direction that we need to go.
"The 30-lap segments gave us a good idea of what we're looking at with this tire."
Obviously, knowledge is power, but in fact, this might be one of those rare situations in which knowledge is a dangerous thing. Whatever Jarrett et. al. might have learned about tires on Saturday night, Gordon once again informed them that he and his No. 24 team might just be too darn tough. Even more ominous than the fact that he won his third Winston or that both of his previous wins came in years in which he went on to win a Winston Cup title or that he did so in a backup car that his team tricked out in less than an hour, there's this: the kid owns Charlotte in the spring, with three wins in the last seven years.
So, maybe next year, that cat will be skinned thus: five of 17 drivers have won both The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same year.