1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Recap

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.

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Dale Earnhardt begins a wild ride in the 1997 Daytona 500, a NASCAR Winston Cup season event.
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.

Three Hendrick Motorsports drivers finish the 1997 Daytona 500, a NASCAR Winston Cup event, under caution.
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 leads the 1997 Jiffy Lube 300, a NASCAR Winston Cup series event.
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 drives in the 1997 Mountain Dew Southern 500, a NASCAR Winston Cup series event.
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.

An early accident complicates the course at the 1997 Coca-Cola 600, a NASCAR Winston Cup series event.
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.

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Jeff Gordon prevailed in a three-way showdown with Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin to win the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup championship.

1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon
1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon

Gordon took the points lead with a September victory in Darlington's Mountain Dew Southern 500 and maintained the narrow advantage over his rivals for the rest of the season. Gordon posted his second NASCAR Winston Cup championship by a close 14 points over runner-up Jarrett. Martin was only 29 points behind in the closest three-way title chase in NASCAR Winston Cup history.

The points lead changed hands seven times among four drivers. Gordon led most of the season, but Jarrett, Martin, and Terry Labonte enjoyed brief stints atop the points standings.

Gordon racked up 10 wins during the season, while Jarrett won seven events and Martin grabbed four ­victories. See how everyone else fared with the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings chart below.

1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Standings

Rank DriverPoints
1 Jeff Gordon
4,710 10 $6,375,658
2 Dale Jarrett
4,696 7 3,240,542
3 Mark Martin
4,681 4 2,532,484
4 Jeff Burton
4,285 3 2,296,614
5 Dale Earnhardt
4,216 0 2,151,909
6 Terry Labonte
4,177 1 2,270,144
7 Bobby Labonte
4,101 1 2,217,999
8 Bill Elliott
3,836 0 1,607,827
9 Rusty Wallace
3,598 1 1,705,625
10 Ken Schrader
3,576 0 1,355,292
11 Johnny Benson, Jr.
3,575 0 1,256,457
12 Ted Musgrave
3,556 0 1,256,680
13 Jeremy Mayfield
3,547 0 1,067,203
14 Ernie Irvan
3,534 1 1,614,281
15 Kyle Petty
3,455 0 984,314
16 Bobby Hamilton
3,450 1 1,478,843
17 Ricky Rudd
3,330 2 1,975,981
18 Michael Waltrip
3,173 0 1,138,599
19 Ricky Craven
3,108 0 1,259,550
20 Jimmy Spencer
3,079 0 1,073,779
21 Steve Grissom
3,061 0 1,074,374
22 Geoff Bodine
3,046 0 1,092,734
23 John Andretti
3,019 1 1,143,725
24 Ward Burton
2,987 0 1,004,944
25 Sterling Marlin
2,954 0 1,301,370
26 Darrell Waltrip
2,942 0 958,679
27 Derrike Cope
2,901 0 707,404
28 Joe Nemechek
2,754 0 732,194
29 Brett Bodine
2,716 0 936,694
30 Mike Skinner
2,669 0 900,569
31 Dick Trickle
2,629 0 656,189
32 Rick Mast
2,569 0 829,339
33 Kenny Wallace
2,462 0 939,001
34 Hut Stricklin
2,423 0 802,904
35 Lake Speed
2,301 0 715,074
36 Chad Little
2,081 0 555,914
37 David Green
2,038 0 512,583
38 Morgan Shepherd
2,033 0 662,999
39 Jeff Green
1,624 0 434,685
40 Robby Gordon
1,495 0 622,439
41 Wally Dallenbach, Jr.
1,475 0 471,479
42 Dave Marcis
1,405 0 427,364
43 Robert Pressley
984 0 252,478
44 Gary Bradberry
868 0 251,930
45 Greg Sacks
778 0 320,714
46 Mike Wallace
541 0 159,303
47 Bobby Hillin, Jr.
511 0 211,978
48 Lance Hooper
402 0 145,000
49 Kenny Irwin
390 0 71,730
50 Billy Standridge
366 0 149,824

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