Jeff Gordon Retired from NASCAR in 2015, only to see him come back and fill in for an Injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. this past NASCAR season. Gordon has gone on record saying 2016 will definitely be his last in a Cup Car. This does not mean he is done with racing, far from it. Gordon will make his return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month and says he has more races on his bucket list including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s definitely on my mind,” Gordon said. “I like seeing opportunities, and when the right one comes along, taking advantage of it and enjoying it. I’m so glad that Wayne and I have kept in touch over the years to be able to do this, especially with Cadillac and Dallara bringing this new car. What comes out of this, we’ll just have to see how this goes. I’m always interested in things like Le Mans, that challenge me that I’ve never done before.
Gordon went on to make the point that he is not done racing. He has a lot more left in the tank and he is eager to show it. Starting with The Daytona 24.
“I think people misused the word retirement,” he said. “When I stepped out of the car, I’m anything but retired. I’m just not running full-time Cup anymore. Of course what happened with Dale Earnhardt Jr. this year was something that I didn’t plan on doing but this is something I hoped I would be doing. I think I kind of alluded to that and mentioned that but I don’t think anybody took me serious. They thought I was retiring and I’m working harder this year than I think I’ve ever worked.”
Gordon last raced in the 24 in 2007 with Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR). While the team finished on the podium (3rd) reliability woes kept them from the top step.
“At this point in my life and career, it would be huge,” Gordon said. “When I came here in ’07, I was kind of along for the ride and enjoying every moment of it. We had a few issues along the way and finished third. I thought it was pretty cool to be on the podium. I think when you really realize how important this race is when you’re here on race day and see the hype and buildup and the challenges you face here in 24 hours to compete at that level against your competitors. That’s what makes this race, to me, so thrilling. I’d be very, very proud of that and that’s why I’ve been working so hard. I want to give these guys everything.”
This year Gordon will once again be driving for WTR along side full-time drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor. Max Angelelli, who drove with Gordon back in 2007 rounds out WTR’s line up for Daytona. Like everyone else in the Prototype Class WTR will be debuting new machinery as IMSA and the 24 say goodbye to the old tube framed Daytona Prototypes. Along with Action Express, WTR will be running the brand new Cadillac DPi-V.R. A carbon fiber chassis with a good ol 6.0 liter, 600 horsepower American V8.
Due to some teething issues Gordon wasnt able to turn many laps in this weeks IMSA test at Daytona. Even so, the new LMP2 based DPi-V.R left an impression.
“Every lap I’ve made in the car has been helpful,” he said. “The time I spent in the simulator in Indianapolis at Dallara, that was big. Of course, definitely getting familiar with the seat and the steering wheel and how the car reacts… I anticipated being a little bit more comfortable here because I’ve run here before.”
“I remember being pretty impressed with the way it drove then because I was comparing it to Cup car on the road course. Of course I did drive that F1 car that one time and that was pretty amazing. This, to me, is getting much closer to that. The braking is definitely far greater. But I wish I could remember what I was doing through the dog-leg [in the DP] because that’s where you really find where this car is at. It’s a medium speed but very fast left-hander that really tests the limits of your body in a car. I don’t really remember what I did in it before but I know what I’m doing in it now and it’s impressive!”
Don’t for a second think Gordon is just here to soak up the experience. Gordon has been serious in his preparation. He does not want to be some guest driver who shows up for the race and then bolts back to his day job. He wants to be a bigger part of the team than just his on track duties.
“That’s what I told Wayne [Taylor, team owner] years ago. I said, ‘I’m not going to come back and run the Rolex 24 unless I can put in the amount of time and effort in the car and physically be in good enough shape and spend time with the team and really be a fixture and a part of it.
Just to recap, Gordon is fully prepared both mentally and physically, he has immersed himself within the WTR team, and he is completely focused on the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Combine that with the Taylor Brothers and endurance ace Max Angelelli and WTR has to be among the race favorites