Gordon looking for another milestone

Friday, June 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) _ Jeff Gordon is in a slump but doesn't need to win this race to reach another milestone.

A top-10 finish at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday will be the 200th of his career.

``It's hard to imagine that we've got that many top 10s,'' said Gordon, who has 199 in 307 Winston Cup starts.

``It just goes to show how consistent this team has been over the years. I think it's a pretty good testament to how hard we've worked.''

Lately, things have not been going so well for the four-time Winston Cup champion. He is winless in 22 events, the worst slump since the first of his 58 career victories in 1994.

Gordon likes Michigan's 2-mile d-shaped oval and has been fairly successful on the track. Last June, he gave car owner Rick Hendrick his 100th win.

This season, Gordon has nine top 10s, including his current streak of four. The consistency has him third in the series standings, 165 points behind leader Sterling Marlin.

``I'm happy with our current streak of finishes, but we need to turn those into wins and top fives if we want to stay in the thick of the championship chase,'' Gordon said.

Casey Atwood also is looking for a successful weekend at the Sirius Satellite Radio 400.

Atwood has posted consecutive season-best finishes and shown the potential car owner Ray Evernham was certain the 22-year-old driver had when he put him behind the wheel two years ago.

Sirius, making its first venture into auto racing this year, sponsors both Atwood's No. 7 Dodge Intrepid and the race.

Atwood's first year wasn't exactly smooth, with Evernham struggling to figure out how to be a car owner after making his mark by winning three championships as Gordon's crew chief.

Near the end of the season, Evernham realized he needed someone a little more experienced in the car to help veteran Bill Elliott, his other driver.

He hired Jeremy Mayfield to replace Atwood, but instead of casting off Atwood, Evernham bought a piece of Ultra Motorsports and put the youngster in that car to keep him under his umbrella.

Still, things were rocky at the start of the season. But there's been a turnaround since Tony Furr left Hendrick Motorsports last month and Evernham snatched him up to be Atwood's crew chief.

Furr's presence has helped dramatically. Atwood had a season-best finish of 14th two weeks ago in Dover, Del., then beat it with his 11th-place finish last Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

``We've brought in Tony and he sees a lot of potential here,'' Evernham said. ``I needed to bring an experienced leader to that team and he's already paying off.

``He's providing new structure for the team, he's helping them improve the ways they are doing things and he's wringing more performance out of the team.''