Doin' the Bump
It all came down to the final race. Mano A Mano. German Michael Schumacher held a slim one point lead over rival Jacques Villeneuve heading into the European Grand Prix at Jerez, Spain.
The two fought neck and neck with Schumacher's Ferrari holding the lead until lap 48 when Villeneuve made his move. His attempt to pass rattled Schumacher, who turned hard to right and bumped into Villeneuve's side, causing his own Ferrari to spin into the gravel.
With Schumacher out of the way, Villeneuve cruised home to a third-place finish behind eventual race winner Mika Hakkinen and became the first Canadian in history to win the Formula One driving championship. For his actions, Schumacher was stripped of his second-place finish, though his five wins over the course of the season remain in the record books.
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On the NASCAR circuit, wunderkind Jeff Gordon captured his second Winston Cup Championship in the last three years. But he made it interesting. Gordon cruised to victory in the first two races of the season, The Daytona 500 and The Goodwrench 400, and went on to record 10 wins, as he did in 1996 when he finished runner-up to Terry Labonte.
Gordon entered the Winston Cup finale at the Atlanta Motor Speedway with a seemingly comfortable 77-point lead over Dale Jarrett, needing only to finish in the top 18 to take the championship. No problem, right?
After a pre-race day accident destroyed his primary car, a slip-up in his qualifying run with his backup car relegated him to the 37th starting position. Gordon was up to the challenge however, barely, finishing 18th with loose handling and worn tires. He finished the season with 4,710 points, just 14 higher than Dale Jarrett and 29 over Mark Martin in the fourth-closest margin of victory in Winston Cup history.