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Too early to be talking championship for Gordon

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jeff Gordon said he felt like a first-time race winner after taking Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Not only did Gordon end a career-long 47-race winless streak, but he also won at Texas for the first time in 17 attempts there.

Gordon led a race-high 105 laps, but had to hold off a late-race challenge from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson to win his first points- paying race since October 2007 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

After a year-and-a-half drought, Gordon enjoyed his trip back to Victory Lane maybe more than ever in his 17-year Cup career.

"It was the coolest," Gordon said. "I've been watching things change since I last won a race. A season goes by and guys recreate how they celebrate a victory from getting the checkered flag. That's the first time I've ever carried a checkered flag around a race win in NASCAR. I used to do it in Quarter Midgets back when I was about eight. But I've never done that before. I've been watching these other guys do it. I can't do a back flip, so I'm not going to do that. I did a heck of a good burnout."

Gordon recorded his 82nd career victory, putting him one win away from tying Cale Yarborough for fifth on the all-time race winners list. He also padded his lead in the standings to 162 points.

It's been eight years since Jeff Gordon won his last title.
Now that Gordon has snapped his winless streak, could this be the year he captures his fifth Cup championship?

It's been eight years since he won his last title.

In 2007, Gordon was a top championship contender as he held the points with four races remaining in the "Chase for the Sprint Cup." But Johnson went on to win four of his last five races of the season to capture his second straight title. Gordon, who won six races during the '07 campaign, finished second in points.

Gordon got off to a relatively good start in 2008, but after a 43rd-place finish in the spring race at Texas, the season went downhill. Crew chief Steve Letarte was on the hot seat at Hendrick by year's end, and many wondered if Gordon's winning days were over.

"When you have the high expectations that this team has, and you go through what we've gone through with all the wins, and then when you don't win and you have to hear it each and every day, every weekend...'When are you going to win?' you go long enough and you feel like you've never won a race ever," Gordon said.

But this season has been a turnaround for Gordon so far, with one victory and six top-10 finishes in the first seven races.

"It's great to be leading the points, but you want to be the guy to beat for the championship," he said. "If you're going to win this championship, you've got to show that you're strong, you're consistent and you can win."

With the victory at Texas, Gordon has shown improvement on NASCAR's one-and-a- half mile (intermediate) tracks, which make up half of the 10 races in the Chase.

Gordon is likely to win more races this year, and is destined to make the Chase for the fifth time in his career.

However, Johnson's proven success in the playoffs could once again be Gordon's obstacle in his "drive for five" championships.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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