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Jeff Gordon's version of '24' returns to FOX on Feb. 17

DAYTONA BEACH , Fla. (Feb. 6, 2008) -  Jeff Gordon could not have scripted a better finish to his first restrictor-plate race in the “Car of Tomorrow” (CoT).

After hanging back to avoid trouble and nearly losing a lap due to a pit road miscue, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion led one lap—the final one—en route to victory at Talladega last October.

But Gordon believes the plot will be much different when the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season opens with the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.

While a plot change will most likely occur, could we witness the same ending—the No. 24 DuPont team celebrating in Victory Lane—seen 81 times before?

“You always want to win the Daytona 500—it’s the ultimate,” said Gordon, winner of the 1997, 1999 and 2005 Daytona 500s. “This is our Super Bowl and there’s a lot of attention given to this race and to the race winner, maybe more so this year because it’s the 50th anniversary of the ‘500.’

“I’m fortunate enough to have a few of the Daytona 500 trophies, but none have gold in it like this year’s trophy.”

The 50th running is also a first—the debut of the CoT in race conditions at the famed 2.5-mile speedway.

“We were able to run the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Impala SS at Talladega last year, and that race gave us a better understanding of what to expect with this car in big drafts on a superspeedway,” said Gordon. “Talladega and Daytona may appear similar, but they’re very different.

“Handling is not an issue at Talladega, so it was possible to hang back and cruise during the race then make a run at the end like we did. That’s not going to be possible here.

“I expect handling to be an issue, so I think that will help separate cars during a long run. Instead of one 43-car pack, we’ll probably have multiple packs with 10 to 12 cars in them.

“With the cars punching such a big hole in the air and the use of bigger restrictor-plates than in year’s past, it should be exciting with a lot of opportunities to pass. But, there are still a lot of unknowns until we race.”

That race opportunity for Gordon will occur during the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night, a special non-points event for pole winners from the previous season and past champions of the event.

“The Shootout will be our first true test with the car in race conditions here,” said Gordon, a two-time winner of the event. “We’ll use a brand new car for that race, but it should give us a lot of valuable information we can use in the Gatorade Duels.”

While the front row for the Daytona 500 will be determined during time trials this Sunday, the remainder of the field will be set during the Duels—two 60-lap qualifying races—the following Thursday. The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has four wins in the qualifying races including victories the past two years and his rookie season of 1993.

The festivities lead up to the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, and Gordon hopes to kick off the 2008 season in style—one that fans of “24” will truly appreciate.

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