Pocono II: Jeff Gordon preview

Largest fan club base, past success support Gordon at Pocono POCONO, Pa. - Despite the fact that four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was born in California and planted his racing roots in Indiana, it is Pennsylvania that boasts more...

Largest fan club base, past success support Gordon at Pocono

POCONO, Pa. - Despite the fact that four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was born in California and planted his racing roots in Indiana, it is Pennsylvania that boasts more Gordon fans than any other state.

As of February, the state that hosts this weekend's event at Pocono Raceway holds the most memberships to the Jeff Gordon Fan Club (JGFC). Gordon, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, acknowledges this by hosting a fan club event each year near the Long Pond track. Gordon shows his appreciation to these dedicated Keystone State fans by spending a few hours with them signing autographs, posing for photographs and answering questions.

"It is truly an honor for me to meet race fans, especially these die-hard fans in Pennsylvania," Gordon said. "The fans out here not only enjoy NASCAR Winston Cup racing, but you can find a lot of them at the local short tracks on a Saturday night.

"Some of my most exciting racing memories are right here in Pennsylvania. The first year I raced Sprint cars (1985), I had a lot of fun racing Doug Wolfgang at Tri-City Speedway. We also had a lot of fun racing at places like Selinsgrove and Silver Springs Speedway in the late '80's.

"Then when I started racing stock cars in the Busch Series, we'd race at Nazareth (where his best finish was a fifth in two starts). Now, of course, we come here a couple times a year to Pocono where this DuPont team has had a lot of success. No matter which series I've raced in, the fans have always been nothing but supportive. They're some of the greatest race fans in the world."

Approximately 60 tracks in Pennsylvania breed a lot of race fans and racers. Many of the people who Gordon is able to interact with ask him about everything from setups to how he got started in racing. They also sport t-shirts and hats pronouncing themselves Gordon fans.

"When I first started racing, I tried to learn as much as I could from guys like Steve Kinser and Rick Mears," Gordon said. "To see young people using me as an example now only makes my position as a role model more important.

"It's hard to explain how good it makes you feel when you see people wearing shirts in support of your team. Seeing that makes what you're doing that much more important because you're not only doing it for your team but for your fans."

Gordon returns to Pocono for the Pennsylvania 500 with three wins (1996, 1997 and 1998), two poles (1996 and 1998), 10 top-fives and with 15 top-10's in 21 starts (71 percent).

Gordon put on a show for his fans in June when he blew a right-front tire on lap two and rallied back to finish 13th in the Pocono 500. As he tries to win his 63rd NASCAR Winston Cup race and claim a fifth Winston Cup championship, a conglomerate of Pennsylvania racing fans will converge at the track to stand strong behind him again on Sunday.

"Having fans like we have in Pennsylvania really gives the No. 24 DuPont team the confidence and motivation to step up our performance," Gordon said. "We are so thankful to have fans that will stick with us no matter what."

Gordon and the DuPont team have 17 races remaining to gain one more position in the point standings. If so, they will be celebrating their championship 80 miles east of Pocono in New York City.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Rick Mears , Steve Kinser