Posted June 07, 2013 on AP on Fox
PLAYERS: Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon isn't quite ready to call it a career. Not this year, at least. He has one of his favorite tracks on tap and a sponsorship deal locked up for another three years, good news for Gordon and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. But questions still loom for the four-time Cup champion. Will he win this season? Can he bring home a fifth championship? And just how long does one of NASCAR's greatest drivers plan to keep going? He offered no clues Friday at Pocono Raceway, even if the three-year extension with Axalta Coating Systems - the sponsor formerly known as DuPont - seems to put an end date for the 41-year-old Gordon. Gordon refused to bite on questions that this deal would be his last, or, that he would even last to finish out the contract. The cocky kid who shot to superstardom in the 1990s and helped fuel NASCAR into unprecedented growth has turned into an elder statesman who knows he won't be racing forever. ''Can you pencil any driver in for every weekend for every year,'' Gordon asked. ''I feel like the same things apply. Nothing has changed for me. We're still competitive and still being challenged and have goals. My back is hanging in there.'' Gordon's creaky back made him at least flirt with the idea of retirement a few years ago until a revamped workout program improved his health. He won five races over the last two years, which proved he still had it in the No. 24 after winless seasons in 2008 and 2010. He won one of his two races a year ago at Pocono, giving him a record six wins at the triangle track, including two in each of the last two seasons. ''I've always loved this track and continue to love it,'' he said. He'll need more of the same on Sunday to help thrust him back into Chase for the Sprint cup contention. Gordon is winless and stuck in 11th place in the points standings, one spot outside a guaranteed slot in the Chase. He would earn one of the two wild-card berths if he's among the top two winners in 11th to 20th place. Ideally for Gordon, he cracks the top 10. Winning at Pocono would be a needed boost. Gordon, third on the career wins list with 87, starts 11th because the field was set on points after rain washed out qualifying on Friday. ''We're further up in points at this point this year than we were last year and I don't feel like we've had a terrific season,'' Gordon said. ''We've certainly had our challenges, so it's sort of refreshing to come to a place that we know we can win at and there's a lot of different ways to win at this track.'' Gordon won a rain-shortened race last season, though he has a soft spot for the victory - it was the first time his wife and both of his two young children joined him in a Victory Lane celebration. Still, it didn't help him win a championship. Gordon won the last of his four championships in 2001 and that easily predates the Chase era. Before he can truly put No. 5 in sight, he has to prove he can regularly run up front. Gordon has hit his season best with two third-place finishes in the last three races and put in a solid 400 miles last week at Dover. With all his success at Pocono, it's no surprise he's in the center of the track's latest promotion. Pocono president Brandon Igdalsky is offering $10,000 to 10 fans who attend the race should the No. 24 pull into Victory Lane. ''I think Jeff can do it, so I'll put my money where my mouth is,'' he said Friday. May as well try and win on Gordon now rather than wait a few more seasons. Gordon's deal with DuPont's paint division was complicated because of a sale, but it was finally completed this week. DuPont, once as much as fixture on Gordon's car as the No. 24, scaled back its sponsorship and then sold the paint division to Axalta. Axalta agreed to sponsor the car for 10 races a year through 2016. In NASCAR, sponsors and drivers are usually teamed together for the length of their contracts (like Jimmie Johnson and Lowe's) but, ultimately, the sponsor is signed on with the team and car - not necessarily the driver. Gordon's primary sponsor, the AARP Foundation, is signed on only through 2014. Gordon's not going anywhere soon. With the Axalta deal up in three years, no one really knows when Gordon is set to call it a career. ''The next seasons ahead were not guaranteed, so it's pretty exciting to know that they have that interest and have been working with Hendrick to sign an extension,'' Gordon said. ''I want to race for a long time. I can't say how long that is going to be at this time.'' --- Follow Dan Gelston on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APGelston
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Axalta Coatings, Jeff Gordon, extend sponsorship

Axalta Coatings systems, formally DuPont Performance Systems has extended it’s sponsorship of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet through the 2016 season. Gordon said he is excited that Axalta has decided to move forward with the team beyond 2013, “They’ve been with me since the beginning and I look [...]

Jeff Gordon could see much needed win at Pocono

Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR Jeff Gordon has six wins and is ranked first among drivers all-time at Pocono Raceway. He has led 965 laps marking the most among drivers all-time at the track. He has captured two poles, 18 top-fives and 28 top-10′s at track drivers and fans alike, call, “The Tricky Triangle.” Gordon’s last win at the track came last August, albeit rain...

Could Gordon Be Racing Through 2016?

It was announced this week that Hendrick Motorsports and Axalta Coating Systems have reached a three year extension. That would have the former DuPont automotive finishes department sponsoring 10 races a year in that span. Do that necessarily mean that Jeff Gordon would be the driver for those years? “Nothing has changed for me.  We’re still competitive and still being challenged...

NASCAR: Jeff Gordon could really shake up Wild Card picture with win at Pocono

If Jeff Gordon can win Sunday at Pocono Raceway he would certainly put an interesting twist on things for the wildcard bubble. Gordon currently sits 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, just 10 points behind Paul Menard for the top 10. If the Chase were to start today, Gordon would barely be in as he and Tony Stewart would be the two wild card drivers. A win would go a...

Party In The Poconos 400 by Walmart Preview

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race: Party In The Poconos 400 by Walmart Track: Pocono Raceway Defending Champion: Jeff Gordon Story Lines: The Sprint Cup Series finds itself at the Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway after running last weekend at the Dover International Speedway. This will be the 71st race in the history of the raceway. Richard Petty won the first race all the way...

Team Chevy Party In The Poconos 400 by Walmart Race Preview

Chevrolet drivers have won 26 of 70 races at Pocono Raceway. Wins by active drivers are: Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Axalta Coating Systems Chevrolet SS, has six (6) wins at Pocono Raceway (’96, ’97, ’98, ’07, ’11 & ‘12) Kurt Busch, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing/Serta Chevrolet SS, has visited Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway twice (2) (’05 & ‘07) Jimmie Johnson, No...

NASCAR: Halfway through 2013 Sprint Cup season, Wild Card watch begins

With half of the regular season in the record book, the road to the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ figures to take a variety of twists and turns through the next 13 races, beginning with Sunday’s Party in the Poconos 400. Pocono Speedway’s first of two events kicks off TNT’s NASCAR Summer Series of six events at 1 p.m. EDT (TNT, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.