Jeff Gordon begins his farewell tour Sunday at the Daytona 500 with his eyes on the prize. Having announced that this will be his final NASCAR season, he’ll be sitting on the pole for NASCAR’s gala.
“I can’t think of anything cooler than to start this season, the Daytona 500, my final Daytona 500, final full season, on the pole,” he said.
Gordon won his second of three Daytona 500s from the pole in 1999. The other drivers to accomplish the feat are NASCAR Hall of Famers Fireball Roberts (1962), Richard Petty (1966), Cale Yarborough (1968, ‘84), Bill Elliott (1985, ‘87) and Dale Jarrett (2000), as well as 19-time race-winner Buddy Baker (198).
Despite competing for the championship for the final time this season, Gordon claims to have tunnel-vision as he tries to tackle the 2.5-mile behemoth.
“I want to win the championship, I want points, but right now it’s the Daytona 500,” he said. “All I want to focus on is winning the Daytona 500. I’m just enjoying the ride, enjoying the moment.”
Fellow Chevrolet drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and 2014 NSCS champion Kevin Harvick are set to spoil Gordon’s Daytona 500 swan song.
Earnhardt, last year’s Daytona 500 victor, boasts two wins in the 500 and will attempt to become just the fourth driver to repeat at the event (Petty, 1973-74; Yarborough, 1983-84; Sterling Martin, 1994-95). A skilled restrictor-plate driver, Earnhardt owns eight career checkered flags at superspeedways.
Harvick, who won the final two races last season to capture his first NSCS crown can join Gordon (1999), Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (1973), Yarborough (1977) and Jarrett (2000) as the sixth defending premier series champion to win the Daytona 500.
The pilot of Stewart-Hass Racing’s No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet is primed to become the 11th driver in NSCS history to secure consecutive titles.
“As you come into this year, knowing we can do the things that we accomplished last year is very rewarding,” Harvick said. “And it is a great confidence builder for our guys and team.
“We know we can thrive in those situations, be successful in those situations and win races if we put all the pieces together correctly.”