Dick Passwater

April 5 in NASCAR history: Jeff Gordon finally breaks through in Texas

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From its start, Texas Motor Speedway was a cruel mistress to Jeff Gordon.

After it opened in 1997, Gordon was involved in wrecks in the first four races at the 1.5-mile track, scoring DNFs in 1998 and 1999.

Then the track teased him.

In the 12 races held from 2001-08, Gordon earned five top 10s, including two runner-up finishes.

By the time 2009 rolled around, the man who had won everything the Cup Series had to offer had won everywhere but Texas and Homestead.

What better way to end an overall 47-race winless streak than winning in your 17th try at Texas?

That’s what Gordon did on April 5, as he started second and led 105 of 334 laps, including the last 28.

“You guys got me a win at Texas, I love you!” Gordon exclaimed to his team over his radio in the midst of performing burnouts on the front and backstretch.

“How ironic is this?” Gordon told Fox in Victory Lane. “We go on this (winless) streak and we end it here at Texas, a place that had eluded us for so long. … We’ve never had a car like this at Texas.”

The win was Gordon’s 10th and final victory with Steve Letarte as his crew chief. The No. 24 team wouldn’t win again in 2009 and 2010 or ever again at Texas with Gordon as the driver. The house that Eddie Gossage built would be the site of a couple low points for Gordon in the second half of his career.

Also on this date:

1953: Dick Passwater only led three laps in his 20 career Cup Series starts. Those three laps delivered him a win at the old Charlotte Speedway. Passwater came out on top after he assumed the lead from Pop McGinnis and held off Gober Sosebee for the victory. Passwater would only compete in 10 more races before returning home to Indianapolis. After his owner, Frank Arford, died while trying to qualifying for a race, Passwater made his last start in a self-owned car, finishing ninth in the Southern 500.

1964: Fred Lorenzen wins for the third straight time in the spring race at Atlanta in an event that saw only 10 of the race’s 39 cars finish.

1981: Richard Petty beats Bobby Allison to score his 15th career win at North Wilkesboro. It was Petty’s first win since 1969 without cousin Dale Inman as crew chief. Inman left after they won the Daytona 500 in February to work with Dale Earnhardt on Rod Osterland’s team.

1986: Morgan Shepherd leads 110 of 200 laps to win the Xfinity race at Bristol. It was his second straight win. Shepherd made 14 Xfinity starts in 1986. He had eight DNFs. In the six races he finished, he won four and placed second and eighth in the others.

1992: Alan Kulwicki wins his second straight Bristol race, leading 282 laps from the pole and beating Dale Jarrett and Ken Schrader. It was Kulwicki’s fourth career win and the first of two victories he would earn in his championship campaign. The win also snapped Bill Elliott’s four-race win streak.

1997: Mark Martin won the inaugural Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.