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Gordon Looks to Jumpstart 2006 with Fourth '500' Win

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 10, 2006) – The Pittsburgh Steelers will finally be able to don their thumbs with a fifth championship ring after the team’s victory on Super Bowl 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 just the third driver to post four or more Daytona 500 victories.

The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl, and on Feb. 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, Gordon wants to build momentum that could lead to a championship at year’s end.

“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, marking the only time he has started on the front row for NASCAR’s premier race.

The rest of the Daytona 500 starting lineup will be set during the Gatorade Duels on Feb. 16.  The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolets 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 season.  Steve Letarte was promoted to crew chief following the 26th race of 2005, and the team used the final 10 races to prepare for 2006.

“At 26, Steve has shown the ability to be a leader,” Gordon said.  “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-10s 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.”

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