By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor, The Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Jeff Gordon is a four-time champion in NASCAR’s premier series, but it’s been 13 years since his last title.
After winning his second race of the season on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and presently holding the points lead in the Sprint Cup Series, Gordon is very confident that 2014 will finally be the year he does the “drive for five.” Gordon, who turns 43 years old on Aug. 4, is having one of his best seasons since 2001.
It’s uncertain when Gordon will retire, but the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports hinted in January that if he won his fifth Cup title this season then he would consider calling it quits. This is his 22nd full season in the series, all of them with Hendrick.
Gordon won the Brickyard 400 at Indy for a record fifth time, and that has him really pumped up for the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Gordon have clinched a spot in the 16-driver Chase field.
“This team certainly has rejuvenated me in a lot of ways,” Gordon said. “It makes me want to dig down even deeper than I possibly can to give them everything back that they’re putting into it. They’ve inspired me in so many ways. I’m just having a blast this year driving awesome racecars.”
“To win two races now, this one being such a big one, leading the points, I’m not thinking about anything else, in all honesty, other than going race to race in this season to try to battle for a championship. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about at this point.”
Gordon has been atop the point standings in 13 of the last 14 races, including the previous seven. His first win of the season came in May at Kansas.
“I think the reason why we’re leading the points is because I believe we’re the best team,” he said. “I don’t believe that means we always have the best racecar. We’ve had a lot of great racecars this year. There have been times when I feel like we’ve needed a little bit more.
“But [at Indianapolis] we had the best car and the best team, no doubt about it. That tells me that if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. It’s certainly going to be a huge confidence boost for this team. We recognize the significance of this.”
Eight times has the Brickyard 400 winner gone on to claim the series championship that same season. Gordon accomplished the feat in 1998 and 2001, while his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, did it in 2006, ’08 and ’09. Dale Jarrett (1999), Bobby Labonte (2001) and Tony Stewart (2005) won the Brickyard 400 and Cup title in the same season as well.
Can Gordon do it again this year?
“A Brickyard 400 win, it just doesn’t get any better,” he said. “I don’t know if we believed we were capable of winning this championship this year, truly believed it, but we do now. We got to keep that fire in us, keep it going.”
The series now heads to Pocono where Gordon holds the track record for most wins with six. He finished eighth there in June. After Pocono, it’s off to Watkins Glen and then Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta before regular season concludes on Sept. 6 at Richmond.
“The significance of this win at this point in the season, what it does for you as a team, confidence, positioning yourself to try to go win a championship, I don’t know how you really rank it,” Gordon said. “In my opinion, for me personally, this is it. This is as good as it gets.”