DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2005) – Jeff Gordon made history Sunday, becoming just the fifth driver in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series history to win three or more times in the Daytona 500. And he’s not done yet.
The performance was just the beginning of the 2005 season and Gordon’s “Drive for Five in ’05,” referring to his quest for a fifth Cup Series championship with the No. 24 DuPont team. It was also the third victory for Hendrick Motorsports in the last four restrictor-place races.
“I want to focus on wins and this team, and give them my best effort that I can week in and week out, and do what we can to win the championship,” Gordon said. “I know how fortunate I am to be a part of such an awesome team.”
The win tied Gordon with Bobby Allison and Dale Jarrett, who each have three Daytona 500 victories. Only Richard Petty (7) and Cale Yarborough (4) have more.
It also marked the fifth win for car owner Rick Hendrick in “The Great American Race” and the first for crew chief Robbie Loomis.
Disappointed at not winning the pole position in Daytona 500 qualifying, Loomis received some reassurance from his car owner before the green flag fell Sunday.
“(The team) stayed focused, we talked, and we knew we (came to Daytona) to win the race,” Loomis said. “Mr. Hendrick, he gave me a little inspiration. He called and he said he had a (pole position) trophy. He said that it didn’t compare to the ‘500’ trophy. So he said, ‘Keep focused on it, get the guys happy.’ That’s what we did.
“I just feel very fortunate. I grew up here in Florida. To get the victory here, I’m just very thankful, that’s for sure.”
Gordon was followed by teammates Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch, who finished fifth, 21st and 38th, respectively.
“We got a top-five (finish). You know, that’s a good start to the season,” said Johnson, who won the Feb. 12 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “I wish we would have been up there to battle with Jeff for the win. But we just didn’t have enough cars in the outside lane.
“It’s cool to have a Hendrick car in Victory Lane at the Daytona 500. We’re off to a good start to the season.”
Busch, who was caught in an accident early in the race, agreed.
“It’s awesome,” said the Raybestos Rookie, who raced the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevy for the first time Sunday. “Congratulations to those (No. 24) guys. They did great and it’s good for (that team) to win.”
Like Busch, Vickers was caught up in an incident, sustaining damage to his No. 25 GMAC/ditech.com Chevy. The team still managed to finish on the lead lap to earn the driver’s best-ever February result at Daytona.
“The team worked hard and the guys worked hard,” Vickers said. “It was an up-and-down day. There were times that we were running really well and there were times when we weren’t.
“We were a lap down and we made it up. We were running back to the top-15 and we got caught in that wreck. I’m not really sure what happened, who caused the wreck or if it was just a racing deal. But it was frustrating.”
After one of 36 races, the NEXTEL Cup standings are equal to the race results for Hendrick Motorsports, with Gordon first, Johnson fifth, Vickers 21st and Busch 38th.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will visit California Speedway on Sunday, Feb. 27. Scheduled for a 3:10 p.m. ET start, the event will be broadcast live by FOX and MRN Radio.