NASCAR Crossover: Jeff Gordon Gets Ready for Rolex 24

NASCAR courtesy photo via Getty Images

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

It wasn’t the first time Jeff Gordon had been behind the wheel of a Daytona Prototype getting ready for the twice-around-the-clock Rolex 24 at Daytona but this past week, Gordon said he believes it ranked very high on his fun meter.

In 2007, Gordon helped pilot the Pontiac Riley entry along with Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen where the group finished third – it was on the podium and Gordon was thrilled. But now, he believes teaming up again with Wayne Taylor Racing and drivers Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli could be a winning run.

“Oh my gosh, at this point in my life and career, it (winning) would be huge,” Gordon said, as he took part in a practice session this past week at Daytona International Speedway. “When I came here in ’07 I was only along for the ride and enjoying every minute of it. Oh man, that was fun, that was a lot of fun. To me able to drive a car with that much downforce and the braking and cornering. It is just an amazing piece of machinery and I’m glad we finally got some laps in and it didn’t disappoint.

“I remember being pretty impressed with the way it drove then because I was comparing it to a Cup car on a road course. Of course, I did drive that F1 car that one time and that was pretty amazing and this, to me, is getting much closer to that. I wish I could remember what I was doing through the dogleg because to me that is where you really find out where this car is at. It’s kind of a medium-speed but a very fast lefthander where you really test the limits of your body and the car. So, I don’t really remember what I did back then but I know what I am doing now and it is impressive.”

Although Gordon retired from the Sprint Cup Series at the end of 2015, he never claimed that he wouldn’t drive again. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Although he had to fill-in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this past season, Gordon said, running big races and getting once-in-a-lifetime opportunities were always in his plans.

“I think people misused the word retirement,” Gordon said. “When I stepped out of the car, I am anything but retired. I am just not driving full-time Cup anymore.

“What happened with Junior this year was something that I didn’t plan on doing but this is something I hoped I would be doing and I think I kind of alluded to that and mentioned it but I don’t think anyone took me serious. They thought I was retiring and I am working harder this year than I think I have ever worked.”

Asked if he had any plans to continue running with the Wayne Taylor Racing team – perhaps at Le Mans – Gordon wouldn’t commit but he also didn’t rule it out. He said he wants to make sure that whatever he does it good for the organization that is letting him be a part of the action.

“I am always interested in things like that, that challenge me, things that I have never done before,” Gordon said. “But I am also going to talk to Ricky and Wayne and Jordon and get their opinions on what the challenges are there (Le Mans) versus what this challenge is.”

There has always been a scattering of NASCAR drivers crossing over into the sports car racing world but Gordon thinks if the drivers find out how much fun he is having there could be a battle for seats, at least, for the Rolex 24.

“If I have a lot of fun then they are going to be jealous,” he said. “When you really realize how important this race is, is on race day when you see the hype and buildup and then the challenges you face over 24 hours. That’s what makes this race so thrilling.”

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