Of all the times Jeff Gordon has found himself in Victory Lane, he says Sunday was the most surprising.
"I just sat there in the car for a moment and thought, `What the heck am I doing here?"' Gordon said as he enjoyed the aftermath of his second straight victory in the Goodwrench 400 at North Carolina Speedway."I'm not much for betting, but early in that race I would have bet a million dollars I would be the last person in Victory Lane today."
The defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion started fourth but slipped far back into the 43-car field as he struggled with the chassis on his No. 24 Chevy.
He labeled the changes that crew chief Ray Evernham made "miraculous."
"I just asked Ray, `What did you do to that thing?"' Gordon said after climbing from his winning Monte Carlo. "It was real, real loose at the beginning. I think everybody out there got to see me sideways because they were all passing me.
"It's really easy to get frustrated. I didn't say a lot. I didn't want to think a lot, either. But Ray is always telling me, `Don't give up, we've got a long way to go.' If today doesn't prove that, nothing ever will."'
It was Gordon's third win at the Rockingham track and the 30th of his Winston Cup career.
Following an adjustment on his third pit stop of the 393-lap race, Gordon suddenly had the fastest car on the 1.017-mile oval. In fewer than 30 laps, he shot from 28th to 13th and then kept moving up.
"We took some time making some big adjustments," Gordon said. "We went one way (on the second stop) and it was way off. Then we went completely the other way and it just kept getting better and better."
Evernham gave Gordon some of the credit, too.
"It wasn't just one adjustment," Evernham said. "We had to make some big changes and Jeff gave me really good feedback out there."
Gordon took his first lead on lap 199 and then outran a squadron of new Ford Tauruses. He led six times for 73 laps, including the final 31, and averaged 117.065 mph in a race slowed by six cautions for 50 laps.
Without Gordon, the race would have been a sweep for Ford's new model - the replacement for the discontinued Thunderbird.
Tauruses finished second through seventh and were far better all day than any General Motors product, except Gordon's Monte Carlo.
Rusty Wallace finished second, trailing Gordon across the line by 1.281-seconds - about 12 car-lengths.