CONCORD, N.C. – Jeff Gordon didn’t need to look much farther than the stage of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Awards ceremony for motivation this past December. As he watched teammate Jimmie Johnson accept the Cup, Gordon felt his drive to succeed in 2014 amplify.
“At the banquet, when you’re not at that head table, it’s highly motivating because you see the champion being awarded,” said Gordon, a four-time Cup champion. “And you want to be that champion. You want to be experiencing that.”
The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS took a quick respite with his family this off-season before returning his focus upon the 2014 campaign. Gordon’s season will open with his teammates and NASCAR Sprint Cup colleagues during the Preseason Thunder at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Jan. 9-10. There, Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson will zero in on the right setup for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 23. That, Gordon said, will help set the right tone for the year.
“We started behind at Daytona last season, and it continued for the next six or eight weeks,” Gordon said. “We were playing catch-up the whole time. So for us, I think it’s about getting into a rhythm a little bit earlier.
“When we found the setup that worked for me and for the team, that’s when we really started bringing fast race cars to the track week in and week out. We started qualifying better and all those things started turning into results. We got ourselves in the position to make the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup) and be as competitive as we were in it.”
Gordon finished sixth in the final 2013 Cup standings on the strength of one victory, eight top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. For 21 consecutive seasons, he has recorded at least one pole position and 11 top-10 finishes – his streak in both categories is the longest among active drivers.
An elder statesman in the world of NASCAR, Gordon ranks first in several categories among his active peers, including most wins (88), most pole positions (74) and laps led (23,581). Every now and again he’s reminded he has about 15+ years on the up-and-coming competition, but he has no plans of calling it quits anytime soon.
“I look around driver meetings, going, ‘Oh my gosh, I really am getting old,’” Gordon said. “Yet, I just love that I can be at this age and at this point in my career and still be racing this long in the series and remaining competitive enough to win races. That, to me, is what it’s all about.”