"Once we got down into [Turns] 1 and 2, I could hear him getting loose," Gordon said. "I've got to thank him -- he raced me awesomely clean. It could have got real ugly down there."
Saturday, Gordon had said he believes this race is won by the best team 90 percent of the time, and that the championship is won by the best team 90-plus percent of the time. (In one 12-year stretch, 1998-2009, the winner of this race went on to win the Cup.)
Clearly Sunday, the race was won by the best team with the best car. So does it follow that the 24 team is now the best in Cup, the one that can take him at long last to that fifth title?
"I do think we were today," he said. "I think the reason why we're leading the points is because I believe we're the best team. I don't believe that means we always have the best race car. ... But this weekend we had the best car and the best team. No doubt about it. That tells me if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere.
"It's certainly a huge confidence boost for this team. We recognize the significance of this. ... I think we saw we were the points leaders. We saw we won at Kansas [his only other win so far this year].
"But I don't know if we believed we were capable of winning this championship this year -- truly believed it.
"We do now."
Then he stopped himself.
"Right now I'm on top of the world, so of course I'm going to say all these things."
Just like 20 years ago -- except that the world he's on top of now is very different.