Daytona 500: Jeff Gordon "Speedweeks" preview

LIKE STEELERS, "ONE FOR THE THUMB" IS GORDON'S 2006 GOAL LOOKS TO KICK OFF CHAMPIONSHIP RUN WITH FOURTH DAYTONA 500 VICTORY DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2006) - The Pittsburgh Steelers will finally be able to don their thumbs with a fifth ...

LIKE STEELERS, "ONE FOR THE THUMB" IS GORDON'S 2006 GOAL LOOKS TO KICK OFF CHAMPIONSHIP RUN WITH FOURTH DAYTONA 500 VICTORY

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2006) - The Pittsburgh Steelers will finally be able to don their thumbs with a fifth championship ring after their Super Bowl victory on Sunday. Likewise, Jeff Gordon hopes to slip on a fifth championship ring at season's end. Already one of only three drivers to have achieved four or more series championships, Gordon also has the opportunity to become only the third driver to post four or more Daytona 500 victories.

The Daytona 500 is NASCAR's version of the Super Bowl and on February 19, Gordon, the defending winner of the event, will look to join Richard Petty (seven wins) and Cale Yarborough (four wins) as the only drivers to secure four or more victories in the "Great American Race." More importantly, he wants to build momentum that could lead to a championship at year's end -- and one step closer to Petty and Dale Earnhardt's record of seven championships.

"You want to start out each season on a positive note, and there's no better way to do that than to win the Daytona 500," Gordon said. "We didn't capitalize on our win here last year. If we're fortunate enough to win it again this year, that is something we hope and expect to change. "Our struggles last year are something we don't want to experience again, and that's enough motivation for the entire DuPont team."

This Saturday night, Gordon will compete in the Budweiser Shootout -- a non-points event for pole position winners from the previous season. He is a two-time champion of the event with his wins occurring in 1994 and 1997. Then on Sunday, the first two positions will be set during qualifying for the Daytona 500. In 1997, Gordon won the pole for the 500-mile event -- the only time he has started on the front row for NASCAR's premier event.

The rest of the starting lineup will be set during the Gatorade Duels on February 16. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has won one of the qualifying races on two occasions, including his rookie year of 1993. And although the Daytona 500 marks the season-opening race, Gordon and Team DuPont consider themselves already 10 races into the 2006 season. Steve Letarte was promoted to crew chief following the 26th race in 2005, and the team used the final 10 races to prepare for 2006.

"At 26, Steve has shown the ability to be a leader," said Gordon. "He took control immediately as crew chief and received the support of the crew. If they didn't support him, they were out the door.

"When we missed the 'Chase,' we made a lot of changes -- including changes to the cars. Although we won four races in 2005, we definitely didn't perform like we know we are capable of for the entire season.

"I've been fortunate that, when we've had bad years, we usually end those seasons with something positive to build on during the off-season. That's what happened last year. We started to 'click' toward the end of the season and build confidence."

In the final five races of 2005, Gordon posted one win and four top-10's with an average finish of 5.8. In fact, his three top-fives during that span accounted for nearly half of the eight he recorded last season. If Team DuPont makes the Chase and experiences similar results this season -- there just might be "one for the thumb."

-hms-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Richard Petty , Cale Yarborough