Jeff Gordon said that ending his long winless streak at Texas Motor Speedway yesterday was as satisfying as his first NASCAR victory.
The quadruple NASCAR Sprint Cup champion did not take a single win during 2008 as he struggled to adapt to NASCAR's new-generation Car of Tomorrow, but that unsuccessful run finally came to an end on Sunday.
"It feels like the very first time I've ever won," said Gordon. "It's been a long streak. It's been a lot of ups and downs and tough times, not only here at Texas but just over the past... I don't know, they keep reminding me, I think it was 46, 47 races. I knew we were going to get one eventually."
The Hendrick driver said he had never doubted that he would be able to turn his form around as he had still fought for wins occasionally even while struggling.
"I feel like we had some missed opportunities last season, even as we didn't have a great year," Gordon said. "But there was still times we could have won. So that just keeps you driving and driving hard and pushing forward.
"I just saw the progress that was being made in the final 10 races with how [crew chief] Steve [Letarte]'s restructuring the engineering and the team and his efforts. And it just fired me up to want to do even more than I already was."
He added that his crew's confidence had been boosted by a strong start to the new season, which had encouraged them to believe that the winless streak would soon end.
"I just see a different look in the guys' eyes. You see a different effort that's being put out," he said. "It's not that you can work any harder, it's just different. The guys are just positive and a bounce in their step. When you have that, you just have a great team that works well together, believes in one another, and all we were missing was that victory."
Gordon believes his lack of success hurt more given his incredible NASCAR record.
"If you're in this sport long enough, whether you've had success or not, you know you're going to go through ups and downs, and we've had from some of the best seasons in history of this sport, and some tough, tough moments," he said.
"I can't say we've had some of the toughest seasons. For us we were measured against our success. But 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, when are you going to win, you go long enough and you feel like you've never won a race ever."