Jeff Gordon pre-season notes

"Veteran" Gordon "Soldiers" On To Complete The Mission DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - CTM = Complete The Mission. The mission? A fifth NASCAR Cup Series championship for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Motorsports team. The "Drive for Five in '05"...

"Veteran" Gordon "Soldiers" On To Complete The Mission

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - CTM = Complete The Mission. The mission? A fifth NASCAR Cup Series championship for Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Motorsports team. The "Drive for Five in '05" begins with NASCAR's biggest event, the Daytona 500, on February 20.

Gordon is no stranger to winning at Daytona International Speedway. Along with his Daytona 500 victories in 1997 and 1999, Gordon has three victories in the Pepsi 400, two Budweiser Shootout victories, two wins in the Gatorade qualifying races and an IROC Series victory at the historic 2.5-mile speedway. Last summer in the 400-mile nighttime event, Gordon led 61 laps from the pole en route to his second restrictor-plate win of the 2004 season.

"We had a great car and a great team effort that night, and it will take the same type of effort to win the Daytona 500," said Gordon. "It will also take a little bit of luck."

"We need to get Jeff a third Daytona 500 win...bad," crew chief Robbie Loomis said. "We won the Pepsi 400 here last year and were in contention to win the Daytona 500 until the final stop.

"We're bringing a brand new car for the '500,' and the Jeff Gordon Network held a contest in which members had the opportunity to name the car. 'Soldier' was the name selected and I think it's a great way to recognize all the men and women who are serving in the armed forces for our great nation.

"In sticking with the same theme, we decided to name the Shootout car 'Veteran' since it is a veteran car in our shop, and also as a way to say thanks to our veterans." Gordon knows it will be a battle, and limiting mistakes will play a crucial role in determining the 2005 Daytona 500 champion.

"It seems everyone has a shot at winning at these restrictor-plate events," Gordon said. "You don't have to be perfect during the entire 500 miles, but it's usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes that wins.

"Our 'plate' program was good last year, and we had a good test down here in January in a new car we believe is better than what we used to win here in July.

"Winning the Daytona 500 would be a great way to begin our charge toward another championship."

The ultimate goal of each team competing in NASCAR's premier division is the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship, and a final 10-race "Chase" will determine that champion. In the meantime, there are 26 races to determine who will vie for the 2005 championship -- and 26 opportunities to win and solidify your place in the top 10.

"Our goal each and every year is to win the championship, and to do that we must to first secure a spot in the top 10 during the first 26 races," said Gordon. "The best way to score points is to win, and that's what we'll look to do as we battle for a position in the 'Chase.'"

During his rookie season of 1993, Gordon did not record a victory in a "points-paying" event and finished 14th in the point standings. Since then, he has collected 69 victories -- including tying a modern-era (1972 - present) record of 13 wins in 1998 -- with 11 consecutive finishes of ninth or better in the point standings.

"This DuPont team consistently runs in the top 10 in points, so I feel we have a shot to win the championship every year under this new format," Gordon said. "It's a lot harder to win the championship under the 'Chase' format, but we think we can be there at the end."

Mission: not impossible.

-hm-

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Robbie Loomis