LAS VEGAS - It may have been risky to take a chance on a 21-year-old-kid in 1992, but the gamble was worth it.
This year marks the 20th season Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports and DuPont have partnered on the now iconic No. 24 Chevrolet, and this Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the debut of the DuPont “20 Years” paint scheme designed by Sam Bass. Will it lead the way in its debut?
“I’m excited about the race this weekend because I think we will have a great race car,” said Gordon, who has one win (2001), six top-fives and seven top-10’s in 14 starts at the 1.5-mile track. “And running the new paint scheme will be cool because it signifies a great relationship that is now 20 years strong.
“Back in 1992 when all this began, it was good news to hear DuPont was interested in sponsoring the car. While I knew it offered me a chance to race for checkered flags in the Cup Series, I didn’t know much about the company then.
“It’s been interesting and educational to learn about their global reach in science and innovation through these two decades. And that education for me continues to this day.
“It’s been a great 20 years, and I hope it continues well into the future.”
The success of the partnership has been visible on the track. Gordon will attempt to drive the No. 24 car into Victory Lane for the 86th time on Sunday, and crew chief Alan Gustafson will be an integral part of that if it occurs. He witnessed Tony Stewart’s dominating performance here last year as well as Stewart’s championship run that included wins at Texas and Miami.
“The setup (used by Tony at Las Vegas) was almost the exact setup he used at Texas and Homestead,” said Gustafson. “We tried it and it was unsuccessful for us.
“But I thought we were very competitive at Texas, especially on the long runs. And we were maybe just a tick slower than (winner) Tony and (second-place finisher) Carl (Edwards) at Homestead in the finale.
“We were close at those two tracks, so we’ll unload at Vegas similar to that. And I hope we are able to incorporate into those setups the things that have made the 14 car so successful on the intermediates recently. Tony and Jeff have different driving styles, but I’m not giving up on it. I still think we can make it work or make a variation of it work.”