Jeff Gordon has much to celebrate as he heads to Chicagoland Speedway for this weekend’s race.
Gordon’s positioned himself three steps closer to his “Drive for Five” by capturing the second spot in the championship Chase standings after his third place finish in the Daytona race.
"I'm just happy to survive one of these restrictor-plate races," Gordon said. "We were able to avoid several wrecks including the 'big one' and were in position to battle for the win.
“When I took the lead with a few to go, I thought we were in good position,” Gordon continued. “But Bowyer and Harvick lined up and I was a sitting duck.
"I don't know what happened on the final restart,” Gordon said. “It just seemed like Clint (Bowyer) was riding the brakes and we weren't going anywhere.
"I went to pass him, and that kind of just messed up our momentum, and our shot at winning. But we're pretty happy to finish third."
Gordon also celebrated with his crew, who were again named the Tissot Pit Road Precision Award winners after the Daytona race. The team won this prestigous award for the second second straight time, and fourth overall, for their swiftness on pit road.
Gordon’s team spent the least amount of time in the pits, 217.313 seconds, during the Coke Zero 400. Team 24 reigned victorious over Clint Bowyer’s No. 33 team, who scored 218.668 seconds, and third place finisher No. 88, piloted by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with a time on pit road of 225.687 seconds for the Daytona race.
With the win at Daytona, the No. 24 team, led by crew chief Steve Letarte, now has a two-race lead in the Tissot standings. Gordon and company lead two other teams, both of whom are tied for second place, the Martin Truex Jr. crew and Matt Kenseth’s team.
“I’m glad the DuPont crew is getting the recognition they deserve,” Steve Letarte, crew chief, said. “They are one of the pieces necessary to win races, and they have been consistent all year long.”
Gordon’s also celebrates a major milestone in his NASCAR career this weekend. When he takes to the track in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet at Chicagoland, he will be making his 600th career start.
Gordon began his career in the final race of 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Since then, he has not missed a single race, which equates to 599 consecutive race starts as Gordon motors into the Windy City.
Through his 599 races, Gordon is sixth on the all time win list. He has 82 victories, is fourth in all-time poles, with a total of 68, and has 272 top five finishes. Gordon has 62 more top ten finishes than the other four-time champion Jimmie Johnson has career starts.
“I’ve accomplished way more than I ever thought I would in this sport,” Gordon said simply. “Everything else from here on is just icing on the cake.”
While Gordon celebrates his accomplishments on the track, he can also hop aboard the party train off the track as well. NASCAR’s littlest princess, daughter of Gordon and model Ingrid Vandebosch, just turned three years old, with a party fit for a queen at FAO Schwartz, the toy store in New York City.
In honor of his first daughter’s birth, Gordon released the first of four 2007 varietals of his wine. It was fittingly named Ella Sofia, of course, after his birthday girl.
“This wine is dedicated to my daughter, born in 2007,” Gordon said. “It is the only vintage of the Jeff Gordon Collection that will carry her name as it commemorates the happiness she has brought to Ingrid and me.”
Gordon will also soon toast the birth of his newest addition, son Gordon, who is due sometime in August. In honor of his new baby, Gordon and his wife have partnered with the March of Dimes to kick off an awareness campaign about Pertussis, most commonly known as whooping cough.
The final capstone to the Gordon party train would no doubt be a win at Chicagoland Speedway. If Gordon nabs that elusive win number 83, it would tie him with Cale Yarborough as the fifth most winning driver in the sport.
“We’re trying to win every single weekend,” Gordon said. “There is not a lot more that we can do.”
Gordon will start his 600 th NASCAR race in the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday evening, July 10. The race will be broadcast on TNT at 7:30 PM ET, as well as on MRN Sirius Satellite Radio.
Photo Credit: Mary Jo Buchanan