Hendrick Motorsports

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Unpredictability could lead Gordon to fourth Daytona 500 crown

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2009) - Some constants remain from Jeff Gordon’s first Daytona 500 in 1993. But to capture another victory in NASCAR’s “Super Bowl,” the three-time Daytona 500 champion’s game plan involves a variable—being unpredictable.

Much is the same from that February day in 1993. Same team (Hendrick Motorsports). Same number (24). Same sponsor (DuPont). But the racing and car are different, and Gordon has adapted throughout his career and now holds a record 12 restrictor-plate victories.

“The racing here now is much different than it was in 1993,” said Gordon, whose Daytona 500 victories occurred in 1997, 1999 and 2005. “That was my first Daytona 500, and I was freaking out. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was along for the ride. I had a fast race car and a great opportunity, but a lack of experience probably hurt my chances of winning. And the racing was a lot more single file, so you had to work lap after lap after lap to pass a car.

“Today, with this car at the restrictor-plate tracks, it’s a lot different,” Gordon added. “The second, third or fourth place car usually has some momentum and can pull out at any time to attempt the pass. If you’re in a position to make a move, the question is whether the cars behind you will go with you – or if they’ll leave you high-and-dry without drafting help.”

In 32 career starts at the 2.5-mile track, Gordon has six wins, three pole positions, 11 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. He has adapted to different drafting techniques through the years and adjusted to differing driving styles by his competitors during the race.

“You do notice and learn tendencies of some of the drivers, but the best drivers change up their game,” Gordon said. “Some drivers are impatient, and they have a tendency to make a move the first chance they get. They’re predictable. Some drivers wait. And wait. And wait. And then make a move when you least expect it. It’s an advantage to be unpredictable.”

With no January testing, Gordon spent the offseason participating in sponsor functions, media activities – and announcing a ‘Dega’ race. Last month, he visited Sesame Street for a guest role as a commentator for the popular show that will celebrate its 40th anniversary beginning in November (The air date of the episode has not been determined but is scheduled to occur during the anniversary season).

“The Jeff Gordon Foundation has partnered with Sesame Street Workshop in the past, and I jumped at the chance to be a guest announcer for ‘Squirmadega,’” Gordon said. “It’s a great show for kids, and Ella, my daughter, loved visiting the show.”

While the no-testing policy aided in scheduling that opportunity, Gordon is not yet auditioning for a post-racing career.

“That was a great opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up,” Gordon said. “But I’m really anxious to get this season started and see how well we stack up against the competition at places like California and Las Vegas. And I really believe this DuPont team has a great opportunity to win Daytona.”