BROOKLYN, Mich. – He now has 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories, but Jeff Gordon constantly thinks about one win. The next one. Last Sunday at Pocono, Gordon led 37 of the final 41 laps en route to his second win of the 2011 season.
That win also moved the Drive To End Hunger pilot into a tie for third all-time in career victories with NASCAR greats Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. One more win and he becomes only the third driver in the series 62-year history to reach 85, trailing only NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
“I never thought I would reach that number,” said Gordon. “When I started, I wondered if I would ever get one win. Back then, I never thought of 84 as a number that was reachable. Forget about the number. Just matching something that Darrell and Bobby – two legends in this sport – have done is incredible. But ever since I won my first race as a kid, it was always about getting to the checkered flag first, and then going out and doing it again and again. Our goal every week is to win.”
Matching Allison and Waltrip may have been a feat, but 39-year old Gordon’s first chance to surpass them will be Sunday in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
“I love Michigan—it’s one of my favorite tracks,” said Gordon, who has two wins (1998 and 2001), five poles, 18 top-fives (50 percent) and 23 top-10’s (63.9 percent) in 36 starts at the two-mile track. “Horsepower is important here because the straightaways are so long. You are on the throttle a long time. But handling well here through the corners – so you can carry speed off the corners and onto the long straights – is very important, too.”
After last Sunday’s victory, Gordon is now 11th in the standings, six behind 10th and only eight points behind eighth. And while Michigan—with its four high-banked corners – and Pocono – with its three distinct corners – may not appear to be similar, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion believes there are some similarities between the two events.
“It takes a lot of power and you have to get through the corners well at both places,” said Gordon. “To me, Pocono and Michigan take the same sort of package.” But can the two tracks yield the same result for the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger team?