Jeff Gordon looking to be strong in 2012

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Jeff Gordon press release

GORDON-GUSTAFSON TICKET COULD BE STRONG IN '12

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 14, 2012) - The 2012 campaign consists of 36 stops from Florida to California and back. Will it end with Jeff Gordon set to serve another term as reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion?

In 2011, Gordon and new crew chief Alan Gustafson teamed up to win three times - including an 85th career victory for Gordon that moved him into third on NASCAR's all-time wins list. Now entering their second season paired together, the duo expects to battle for this year's title.

"If you talk to Alan, man is he fired up [going into the new season]," said the driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. "We now have a year of working together under our belts, so our communication should be better and we should be stronger. We have a belief in one another, and that has me all fired up, too!

"If we're not battling for this year's championship in the final race of the season, it'll be a disappointment."

First up is the Daytona 500 - Gordon's 20th time competing in "The Great American Race." In 38 starts at the 2.5-mile track, he has six victories, three poles, 12 top-fives and 19 top-10 finishes. During a test here in January, the No. 24 was at or near the top of the timing sheets for many of the sessions.

"Our test here went very, very well," said the 1997, 1999 and 2005 Daytona 500 champion. "And I thought NASCAR made huge gains in the effort to break up the tandem drafting that we have seen recently.

"I believe 95 percent of the [Daytona 500] will be the traditional big-pack racing. At the end, though, I believe we'll still see the two-car drafts because it's faster.

"It's going to be very interesting and exciting, but we'll know more after this Saturday's (non-points) Budweiser Shootout."

While this trip to Daytona will be his first Speedweeks as a 40-year old, it would be a mistake to think Gordon is "just making laps."

"When I got into the sport, there were drivers that were racing at 40," said the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. "I didn't look [at racing at 40] as out of the question, although I probably looked at them and thought, 'gosh, those guys are old!' Now, I'm that person.

"It tests your passion, your abilities - it makes you work much harder. I'm more driven today and more excited about racing than maybe ever. I'm looking forward to the season because we have a great race team.

"One that I think can do something really special."

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, gordon, gustafson, hendrick