DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Nov. 21, 2001) -- For Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet team, it's never too early to plan ahead.
While the celebration of his fourth NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship is just getting started, Gordon and his crew chief Robbie Loomis are already looking forward to the 44th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 17 where Gordon will be gunning for his third victory in the "Great American Race."
"Honestly, we've been working on Daytona since we came home from Talladega (in October)," Loomis said. "We've had some meetings on the speedway cars and have been working on some engine stuff in the shop already. We're really excited about it."
Gordon picked up his previous Daytona 500 victories in magical fashion. In 1997, he ducked low entering Turn 1 to pass Bill Elliott on Lap 195 of the 200-lap race to win his first Daytona 500.
Adding to the emotion, Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammates Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven finished second and third respectively. Gordon also became the youngest driver to win Winston Cup's biggest event at 25 years, 6 months, 12 days.
In 1999, with 10 laps remaining, Gordon darted low again heading into Turn 1 to pass Rusty Wallace for the lead and then held off a hard charging Dale Earnhardt for a .12-second victory.
Both of Gordon's Daytona 500 victories were with then crew chief Ray Evernham, who has since become an owner of two factory Dodge Winston Cup teams and recently acquring interest in a third team..
After leading Gordon to his fourth Winston Cup championship this season (first without Evernham), Loomis hopes it's his turn to lead Gordon to a Daytona 500 victory in 2002.
Can he win again? The answer to that question will be found during January testing where the team will try to get a handle on the new restrictor-plate rules.
"It's a great opportunity to get all the guys on the team working together again and everyone knowing their part on the road," said Loomis about January testing at Daytona. "It's a good time to learn a lot of things on the race car in preparation for February."
Tickets for Speedweeks 2002 events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office (386) 253-7223.