Terry Labonte's '96 title fight with Jeff Gordon eerily similar to 2007
This season's two-man fight to the title between teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson looks awfully familiar to Terry Labonte. It should, because his title-winning battle with then-teammate Gordon in 1996 set the standard, writes David Newton.
Then And Now
In 1996, Jeff Gordon had a one-point lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte with three races left in the championship run. He finds himself in a similar situation this season with a nine-point edge on teammate Jimmie Johnson. Here's a look at how the end of the 1996 season unfolded
|Charlotte||31st||1st||Gordon, plus 1|
|Rockingham||12th||3rd||Labonte, plus 32|
|Phoenix||5th||3rd||Labonte, plus 47|
|Atlanta||3rd||5th||Labonte, plus 37|
What It Takes To Win The ChaseWith three races left in the 2007 Chase for the Nextel Cup, all 12 drivers still are alive, although the status of each ranges from thriving to critical. Jeff Gordon has a nine-point lead over teammate and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson could win this year's championship without winning even one of the final three races. The following scenarios take into account how each driver could overtake Gordon in the final three races and, unless otherwise specified, include those drivers winning each race and leading the most laps.
|1) Jeff Gordon||Chase leader|
|2) Jimmie Johnson
|Could take lead by finishing as few as two spots ahead of Gordon or by winning a race|
|3) Clint Bowyer
|Needs Gordon to average a sixth-place finish or worse|
|4) Carl Edwards
|Needs Gordon to average a 20th-place finish or worse|
|5) Tony Stewart
|Needs Gordon to average a 27th-place finish or worse|
|6) Kyle Busch
|Needs Gordon to average a 28th-place finish or worse|
|7) Kevin Harvick
|Needs Gordon to average a 35th-place finish or worse|
|8) Jeff Burton
|Needs Gordon to average a 36th-place finish or worse|
|9) Kurt Busch
|Needs Gordon to average a 38th-place finish or worse|
|10) Denny Hamlin
|Needs Gordon to average a 39th-place finish or worse|
|11) Matt Kenseth
|Needs Gordon to average a 41st-place finish or worse|
|12) Martin Truex Jr.
|Needs Gordon to not start one race and to finish 43rd without leading a lap in the other two|
"Rick is naturally a great leader, and there's a lot of great people at that organization, and people there respect each other a lot," said Labonte, who is enjoying his retirement in Texas and Charlotte. "Jeff and Jimmie definitely respect each other. They both want to win, and they both know they want to win."The guy that wins it will obviously be happier than the guy that finishes second, but overall, it'll be a great year to come out second, even though I know neither one of them want to do that."
Rick is naturally a great leader, and there's a lot of great people at that organization, and people there respect each other a lot. Jeff and Jimmie definitely respect each other. They both want to win, and they both know they want to win.
-- Terry Labonte