Jeff Gordon Focused On Solid Weekend at NHMS

In recent years, Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 team have battled back from adversities and wound up persevering with solid results in the form of wins and a strong bid for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

Whether it was the truly maddening 2012 campaign where Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports brigade battled back with a pair of victories and top-10 points finish to a truly solid season last year with four wins and a sixth place points result, this combination has lived up to its motto in refusing to lose.  Prior to Friday’s qualifying session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Gordon reflected on the strengths of his No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevy SS team.

While Dayona and Kentucky showcased more of the solid consistency that was prevalent in 2014, Gordon knows that they’re still working to improve their overall efforts to contend for wins and to make what will be his final NASCAR Sprint Cup championship bid.

Jeff Gordon is focused on the challenges ahead with Loudon and for making the Chase Grid.

“I love the fight that this team has in them,” Gordon said,  “We’ve shown this over the years.  We just never give up.  Whether we’re down a little bit or things aren’t going as well as you want them to, we just keep working extremely hard to improve those results.  That hard work has been paying off lately and we’re getting better results but we know we’ve got more work to do and we’re working hard to make it happen.”

In recent weeks, Gordon and his crew chief Alan Gustafson have made some gains with their performances as they’ve logged two-straight top-10 results heading into this Sunday’s 5-hour ENERGY 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  They’ve had their fill of ups and downs since being paired up beginning in 2011 like most driver and crew chief dynamics.  As for Gordon, he recognized one of the motivational catalysts for the No. 24 team.

“Alan’s an awesome crew chief and he’s really good from the engineering side of things with understanding the cars and aerodynamics,” Gordon observed.  “Plus he’s also just very driven.  He works really hard to push the team and himself, as well as me.  This is a year where I’m winding down my career and I could very easily settle in and ride it out. That’s not the kind of leader that Alan is and he’s very motivating to me.  We want to end this season running strong, winning races, and hopefully battling for the championship. You can give him a lot of credit for that.”

The 2015 season has been somewhat of an exercise in patience for Gordon, as he’s tallied two top-fives and 10 top-10’s after 18 races, placing him 10th in the points standings or 13th in the Chase Grid, 64 points in the good to make the postseason field.  Despite the encouraging performances and results in the past few weeks, when asked if he felt like his team was championship contention ready as of now, the three-time Loudon winner was candid but optimistic.

“Not yet but it’s a long season,” Gordon said.  “The summer is where we really seem to find ourselves.  We have some great races and tracks coming up and we’ve got some improvements to make in some areas.  Because it’s a long season and the Chase resets things, anything is possible and I wouldn’t count us out at all.”

Over the past 23 years, if there’s one thing that observers and fans shouldn’t do with Gordon and his No. 24 team, it’s to take them out of the equation for wins and title efforts until it’s mathematically and plausibly out of reach.  Until then, this team, no matter how tough the going gets, as seen with this driver and organization, they’ve turned things around more times than not.

Perhaps that total team effort comes at the 1.058-mile track, where Gordon has scored three wins (1995, ’97-’98), 15 top-fives, and 22 top-10’s in 40 starts.  Although adversity struck the team once more in the penultimate Saturday practice when he and Clint Bowyer made contact in the garage area, throwing in the towel and calling this weekend a lost cause would be foolhardy.  Moments like these are what’s defined the No. 24 team as one that’s been resilient, strong, and one of the top Sprint Cup forces since 1993.

If there’s a driver and team who’s up to the task of taking on the Granite State track as well as Milo the Moose embraces his hometown track, Gordon and company know how to contend for the win and put that solid effort during the race weekend as he analyzed about the track and the challenges that he’s enjoyed about this unique speedway.

Jeff Gordon negotiates around the corners of the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“It’s an extremely challenging one mile racetrack because of how long the straightaways are and how flat the corners are,” Gordon pointed out.  “It makes it difficult to not only run the laps and get your line right and your speed on the entry but to get the car to work the way you want it to from the team side of things.  I think it’s one of those tracks where you’ve got to attack the entry but there’s some bumps that you have to deal with.

You’ve got to try to get the car to turn in the center with the front tires without slipping the back.  That’s just running laps by yourself.  When you have others out there with you, trying to make those passes creates even more challenges. I’ve liked this track and the approach of it.  You’ve got to be patient here and work really hard with the team to get the car to do what you want it to do and it usually pays off for the race.”

Make no mistake that in spite of their 23rd qualifying effort and the somewhat tough start to the race weekend, Gordon and his crew will work feverishly to be a contender come Sunday afternoon.  Battling as competitively as the team that stands by his side in victory or in defeat, the 43-year-old racer also takes inspiration from his family and being able to share his lifelong passion with them at the track.

“It goes all the way back to my parents who got me into racing,” Gordon said.  “They really taught me how to work hard, give it a 100 percent, and stay focused, which gave me what it really took to become a racecar driver.  My kids and my wife are the greatest supporters that I have and nothing is greater than finishing a race and winning by sharing that moment with them so that’s highly motivating.”

Drawing strength and motivation from his mother Carol and his stepfather John Bickford, his wife Ingrid, and his children Ella Sofia and Leo Benjamin, he’s been able to kiss the bricks with them last year in a sentimental victory at Indianapolis as well as Dover, DE in the fall.  Celebrating those great moments with his family and his team are incredible experiences for the Vallejo, CA native.

Ultimately, those battles on the track with the No. 24 team and the exciting moments during the races are some of the things that Gordon will miss when he clambers out of the No. 24 car for the final time at Homestead-Miami Speedway this November.  Although he will still be a part of NASCAR as an analyst for FOX’s coverage starting next year, being a competitive force on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit since ’93 will be something that he’s not sure that any experience off the track can replicate.

“There’s nothing that can replace being a part of a strong team.” – Jeff Gordon

“I’m certainly going to miss the competition,” Gordon said.  “There’s nothing that can replace being a part of a strong team. All of the communication, hard work, and effort that goes into creating that racecar and making it a winning racecar or a winning team and experiencing what it’s like to make passes and see how you advance around a race and move through the field…or dominating the race, whatever it takes, there’s that team effort where you win together or lose together.

Those days where you win and you know how much you put into it, it’s one of the greatest feelings that you could ever have. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to replace that with any experience in life.”

No matter the obstacles during the race weekend or the detractors who may overly analyze some of their setbacks as a white flag for Gordon, Gustafson, and the No. 24 team, it’s this group that believes in each other and themselves in the heat of the battle.  Winning can soothe struggles but adversities can define a team’s fate in terms of strength and courage to rise above the challenges.

This team has what it takes to stand tall and proud at Loudon and their driver has the determination and desire to right this ship in efforts to close out his storied full-time Cup career on a good, positive note.  Steady, focused, and most of all, competitive as ever, Jeff Gordon can and will be a factor not only on Sunday, but with making a strong effort towards a bid for a fifth and final NASCAR Cup championship.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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