Driver Jeff Gordon began the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup season with a victory at the Daytona 500 and went on to 10 more victories and a Winston Cup championship. And his winning ways were just beginning -- Gordon had plenty left for the 1998 NASCAR season as well.
Review the 1997 season race by race with the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup chronology that appears below:
February 16, 1997: Daytona 500
Jeff Gordon drives past Bill Elliott with six laps remaining and leads a 1-2-3 sweep for the Hendrick Motorsports team in the 39th running of the Daytona 500. Gordon, Terry Labonte, and Ricky Craven gang up on Elliott in the stretch drive and take the top three spots in NASCAR's most celebrated event.
March 9, 1997: Primestar 500
Dale Jarrett leads the final 59 laps and breezes to victory in the Primestar 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway for his first win of the season. Ernie Irvan finishes second, giving the Robert Yates team a 1-2 finish. Steve Grissom survives a tumble on the backstretch late in the race without serious injury.
Dale Earnhardt's #3 Chevrolet begins a wild ride in the 189th lap of the Feb. 16 Daytona 500. Earnhardt had just been passed by Jeff Gordon when his car glanced off the wall. While sitting in the ambulance, Earnhardt said he "noticed the wheels were still on the car. I got out of the ambulance and asked the guy in my car to crank it. When it fired, I told him to give me my car back." Earnhardt drove the remaining laps and salvaged a 31st-place finish. See more pictures of NASCAR.
April 6, 1997: Interstate Batteries 500
Jeff Burton comes on strong in the final 100 miles and racks up his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory as Texas Motor Speedway stages its inaugural race, the Interstate Batteries 500. The race is punctuated by several crashes, which contribute to 10 caution flags for a total of 73 laps run under the yellow flag.
April 13, 1997: Food City 500
Jeff Gordon nudges past Rusty Wallace on the final lap to win the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Twenty caution flags fly and 132 laps are run in single-file formation.
May 10, 1997: Winston 500
Mark Martin prevails in the nonstop Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and holds off Dale Earnhardt to win in record time. Martin averages a staggering 188.354 mph in the caution-free event. It is Martin's first NASCAR Winston Cup victory since the 1995 season.
A rash of late-race crashes forced the Daytona 500 to end under caution, with Jeff Gordon in first, Terry Labonte second, and Ricky Craven third, giving team owner Rick Hendrick a 1-2-3 finish in The Great American Race. It was the first time that teammates ran 1-2-3 in NASCAR's biggest event.
June 8, 1997: Pocono 500
Jeff Gordon passes Ted Musgrave with 16 laps remaining and sprints to a narrow victory over Jeff Burton, registering his sixth triumph of the season in the Pocono 500 in Pennsylvania. With the win, Gordon ties winless Terry Labonte for the lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup points standings.
June 15, 1997: Miller 400
In a crowd-pleasing late-race spurt, Ernie Irvan drives to victory in the Miller 400 at Michigan International Speedway, claiming a win at the track that nearly took his life in August 1994. Irvan leads the final 21 laps and beats runner-up Bill Elliott by 2.9 seconds.
Jeff Gordon runs out front in the early stages of the July 13 Jiffy Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway as #3 Dale Earnhardt and #7 Geoff Bodine close in. Gordon struggled to finish 23rd and lost the NASCAR Winston Cup points lead to Hendrick Motorsports partner Terry Labonte. Earnhardt finished second behind Jeff Burton, and Bodine ran 10th in his self-owned Ford.
June 22, 1997: California 500
Jeff Gordon christens the new California Speedway with a win in the California 500, the inaugural event on the two-mile oval. Terry Labonte takes second, giving Hendrick Motorsports another 1-2 finish.
July 5, 1997: Pepsi 400
John Andretti holds off Terry Labonte on the final lap to score his first career NASCAR Winston Cup victory in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Andretti's win gives Cale Yarborough his first win as a NASCAR team owner.
Dale Earnhardt drifts into the upper groove in the opening laps of the Aug. 31 Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington as #1 Lance Hooper, #17 Darrell Waltrip, and #43 Bobby Hamilton steer clear. Earnhardt suffered a mysterious lapse of consciousness on the opening lap and grazed the wall. Two laps later, Earnhardt drove into the pits, where he was replaced by Mike Dillon, who took the car to a 30th-place finish.
August 4, 1997: Brickyard 400
Owner/driver Ricky Rudd gambles on fuel mileage and it pays off with a $571,000 triumph in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Rudd leads the final 14 laps and finishes a scant .18 second in front of runner-up Bobby Labonte.
August 31, 1997: Mountain Dew Southern 500
Jeff Gordon prevails in a fender-rubbing final-lap skirmish with Jeff Burton to win Darlington's Mountain Dew Southern 500 and the Winston Million bonus. Gordon is the first driver to pocket the $1 million bonus since Bill Elliott won in the inaugural offering in 1985.
October 12, 1997: DieHard 500
Terry Labonte takes the lead in the final two laps and edges his younger brother Bobby at the finish line in the DieHard 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. It is the 19th career win for the two-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion.
Cars snake through an early accident in the May 25 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Todd Bodine drove the #7 Ford as a substitute for injured brother Geoff, who had been in a practice crash four days earlier. Bodine's engine failure triggered the crash, and Todd finished last in the 43-car field. Jeff Gordon won the 600-miler to bag the second jewel of NASCAR racing's Winston Million bonus program.
November 16, 1997: NAPA 500
Bobby Labonte throttles his way into the lead in the final 11 laps and speeds to victory in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Dale Jarrett finishes second, but he falls 14 points short of Jeff Gordon's point total in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Gordon finishes 17th, and becomes the youngest driver to capture two championships.
Get the full picture of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup final standings with our easy-to-read chart on the next page.