NSCS: Trying to Go Out on Top; Gordon Hoping #DriveForFive Ends With Title in Homestead

RaceChaser Staff Featured, NASCAR, Southeast 0 Comments

This is the third of Race Chaser Online’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship 4 previews. Tune in to the Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday at 3 p.m. (NBC, NBCSN Hot Pass, MRN, SiriusXM) to find out which of the four drivers earns the right to hoist the Sprint Cup on the championship stage in Florida.

MIAMI, Fla. — staff report —  Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR photo –

Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 just might be the biggest race of Jeff Gordon’s life.

And it just so happens that it’ll likely be his last.

If he can finish ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in the final event of his last full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Gordon will walk away with his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Already fourth on the all-time championships list, the No. 24 Chevrolet driver would end his career behind only Jimmie Johnson (six championships), Richard Petty (seven) and Dale Earnhardt (seven) in the NASCAR record books.

As a four-time champion to date, he’s prepared for what the moment brings with it, and he’s gotten plenty of advice on how to handle the outside distractions.

“I just tapped into a six-time champion, Jimmie Johnson, and I said, ‘What do I need to go do?’” Gordon said. “He’s been giving me some great advice about how to shut it off. It’s been a while for me, but we’re determined and focused as a team to go down there and stay focused and do everything possible.”

“You’ve got to have good people around you to help guide you and give you good direction and give you that time that you need to not have the distractions. My wife and I have been having a lot of discussions about that, and I’m looking forward to staying out at the track, a long way from everything else and everybody else, and just staying focused on what we need to do for Sunday.”

Gordon and the No. 24 team have been preparing for the task at hand Sunday ever since he led the final 22 laps at Martinsville Speedway en route to Victory Lane and a berth in the Championship 4. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS said he’s excited about his chances and the opportunity that lies ahead of him.

“I love Homestead,” he said. “I love that racetrack. I think we showed that last year. I can’t wait to get down there and get that car on track and start tuning it in for the race.”

Last season, to Gordon’s point, he led 161 laps before earning a 10th-place result. His 16 starts and seven top-five finishes are the most at the 1.5-mile track, while he is tied with Kevin Harvick for the most top-10s at the Florida venue.

On Nov. 18, 2012, he led the final 13 laps of the race on the way to his only Sprint Cup victory at Homestead. He’ll hope for a similar result this time around.

“There’s only one lap I want to lead, and that’s the last one,” Gordon said. “Yeah, I mean, this has been incredible the way our season has been real up and down, and then the Chase has been really solid for us and of course Martinsville, and we feel very, very fortunate and excited. When I set out into this season and made the announcement that I made, I just hoped that this could possibly happen, and it is, and now it’s not enough for us just to go down there and be a part of it. We want to go there and push hard and get every single thing we can out of ourselves and our team and see if we can’t give these guys a run for their money.”

Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. – who along with Jimmie Johnson earned back-to-back victories following Gordon’s Martinsville win to make it three in a row for Hendrick Motorsports – said the organization’s recent success should only encourage the No. 24 team.

“I think Jeff has got to feel confident with the way the Hendrick Motorsports cars performed the last three weeks,” he said. “Jeff has got to feel good about his chances.”

As the final race approaches, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick knows it will be a monumental event regardless of the outcome – but he has one particular finish in mind.

“It’s going to be an exciting and a very emotional race at Homestead,” Hendrick said. “I think it would be a storybook ending and really amazing for Jeff Gordon’s career if he could retire winning a championship. I don’t think it could get any better than that.”

Gordon gutted his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as its 13th seed, qualifying on points, but has upped his performance in NASCAR’s playoffs. He leads all drivers in average finish (7.7) and top-10 finishes (8, tied with Joey Logano), highlighted by his win at Martinsville.

A Gordon championship would not only be his first since 2001, but his first in the Chase era (2004-present). If he wins the title on Sunday, Gordon’s 14-year gap between championships would surpass 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee and former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte’s record 12-season drought between titles.

Hendrick Motorsports team already owns the Cup record with 11 NSCS titles as an organization.

NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications and Hendrick Motorsports contributed materials to this report.

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