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Jeff Gordon Targets Second Texas Victory

Sentimental, popular moments in NASCAR occur occasionally but when they do, it transcends beyond a race, rivalry, and allegiances for drivers, teams, sponsors, and fans.  In the case of Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 team, last Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway was a truly magical time in the sport.

Gordon scored his first win of the 2015 season which was pivotal as it propelled him into the Championship Round of 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks.  This victory, which was his 93rd overall in his illustrious NASCAR Sprint Cup career, was unlike any other for the four-time champion.

The usually mild mannered racer showed tremendous emotion when he clambered out of his car, immediately running towards the flag stand to retrieve the checkered flag.  Gleefully leaping in the air and into his team’s arms, Gordon celebrated his momentous win with the kind of vigor and excitement that a first-time winner or first-time NASCAR champion would emote which was refreshing to see in a rather action packed race.

Last Sunday was the most exciting Gordon celebration seen in NASCAR...yet.

Last Sunday was the most exciting Gordon celebration seen in NASCAR…yet.

“We’re going to Homestead!” Gordon exclaimed to NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider last Sunday  in Victory Lane.

Those five words said all for the Vallejo, CA native and his team.  Crew chief Alan Gustafson, the No. 24 pit crew, and spotter Eddie D’Hondt have endured a tremendous amount of adversities to get to this point in the year.  Struggling to score top-five finishes this year, earning a Chase seed berth two months ago at Richmond seemed like an accomplishment in itself for this Hendrick Motorsports effort.

If making The Chase seemed like sufficient accolades for Gordon and company, think again.  Starting off with a 14th at Chicagoland, Gordon scored a seventh at Loudon, 12th at Dover, eighth at Charlotte, 10th at Kansas, and third at Kansas.  All of those solid results plus the win at Martinsville has suddenly made this sleeper of a team look like they’re ready to go for gold in two weeks under the moonlight at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Clearly, the dedication and determination to win it all is there with this No. 24 unit.  At times, Gordon and Gustafson clashed like a great rock band struggling to record an amazing album.  The recording sessions can be rough and tense much like the regular season races can be for any of The Chase teams.

Despite those struggles, they’ve come through in the right moments of the year and perhaps there’s even more strong performances left for the soon to be retired Gordon.  Some of that hope was seen in July at Loudon, NH, even when the pundits and competition dismissed the No. 24 effort as a sort of 36 race goodbye tour.

Gordon has one of the coolest Christmas cards in NASCAR land.

Gordon has one of the coolest Christmas cards in NASCAR land.

Watching Gordon celebrate with his team, family, and the fans last Sunday was perhaps the most pinnacle moment to date for this future NASCAR Hall of Fame racer.  This wasn’t a 24-year-old who may have not shown that appreciation for his journey.

Last weekend, we saw a 44-year-old man who has come a long ways and has paid his dues personally and professionally.  Most of all, he’s fought the good battles to become the respected icon on the track by his peers and the legions of fans who’ve appreciated him as well as those who perhaps jeered him in the glory days.

Today’s AAA Texas 500 could be a great prep session for the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as both tracks feature a rough asphalt surface and similar tire compounds supplied by Gooodyear.  Naturally, a victory would be great for the No. 24 Axalta ServiceKing Chevy team as it would force the seven Eliminator Round racers to go for a win next Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Yes, a win would be great as it would be the 94th triumph in a career that dates back to the last ever start for Richard Petty on November 15th, 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Ultimately, what matters is scoring a solid finish so that there’s good data to compile and utilize with their car in two weeks.  A go for broke approach is the best way to go about this race and that’s something this steely veteran has excelled with since day one in the No. 24 car.

Gordon could be quite the factor for the win in today's AAA Texas 500.

Gordon could be quite the factor for the win in today’s AAA Texas 500.

Don’t let his 18th starting position indicate an afternoon in which Gordon will simply ride it out and stroke for an easy finish.  This driver and team will go for it all on Sunday and as he indicated after qualifying on Friday evening, there’s some promise with his car and outlook for the race.

“I felt really good about some race runs that we had today,” Gordon said.  “I’m pretty optimistic, but that was about all we had and obviously want more.  I felt like in race trim today we were really good.”

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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