When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend, it’ll mark the 20th anniversary of the inaugural event, a race that was won by Jeff Gordon.
“Every time it’s something special when you go to Indianapolis,” Gordon commented. “It’s just such a cool place, so much history, and obviously a lot of great memories for me and confidence. As a driver when I go there, of course it takes a great car and a great team to win that race, but it seems like most years that we’ve been there, we’ve had a car that’s capable of winning.
“With the type of season that we’re having, I’m extremely excited about going to Indianapolis. I think that the way that our cars are performing, the way our engines are performing, Indianapolis is a track that we certainly can win at. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years, but looking forward to celebrating those 20 years hopefully with another win.”
To win at Indianapolis back 20 years ago meant a lot to Gordon as he grew up running a lot of races in the Indiana area.
“That experience was huge to get those laps, to learn how to drive that car at such a young age. I think it’s what got me to the Cup Series at such a young age and has helped me be successful from that point on in any type of race car that I’ve ever been in,” Gordon commented. “You know, and then that goes to the area that I lived in out in Pittsboro, we had five acres with a shop in the back, we built our cars back there, worked on them. We had other people in racing that would come and sort of make that their camp if they were racing nearby, whether it was an NHRA team or a sprint car team, and then even to the school. The school was very open to understanding that this was something that I was on a career path for and was very serious about, and when I needed days off, because I was maybe traveling to Australia to race or a big race was happening in another part of the country, they were very open to working with us to be flexible about that.
“That was something that didn’t happen in California as well. I didn’t get the chance — they wouldn’t let me race before I was 16. So Indiana played a huge role in getting me to where I am today.”
With his experience as a kid in Indiana, the fan response for Gordon is always huge during pre-race festivities.
“When I go to Indianapolis, I get obviously a bigger round of applause or whatever the area are cheering or clapping,” Gordon said. “It’s louder there than it is anywhere else that we go, and that speaks volumes about my connection with Indiana and the way the fans treat me there. It’s unlike any other place that I go, and I love it.”
There’s a good chance that Gordon may give the fans something to cheer about as the No. 24 team has been consistent to date this year, posting solid finishes across the board to have Gordon as the current points lead. Between the consistancy and the ability to fight back from adversity – as witnessed at New Hampshire this past weekend. Gordon would get behind early in the race due to an issue, however was able to fight back and lead some laps.
“I thought yesterday at Loudon was a really great measure of the strength of our team because we got down at the beginning,” Gordon commented. “Loudon is a very difficult racetrack to pass on, so track position is extremely important. To lose that track position early in the race with that puncture that we had in the right rear tire, I wasn’t sure if we could climb or way back up in there, and we were able to show that our car was strong and pass cars on the track.
“Also I thought Alan made some great calls in the pits to get that track position back, and we were able to lead some laps there at the end.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as the late caution brought forth a green-white-checkered, which ended up leaving the fuel tank dry and a poor finish.
Riding high on momentum, though, is huge for Gordon as he heads to two tracks – Indianapolis and Pocono – where he has been successful in the past, finding victory lane at both.
“Indianapolis is a great track for us, as strong as our cars are and our team is this year,” Gordon commented. “I think Indianapolis is a track we can really shine, and we were really strong at Pocono the last time we were there. Yeah, I feel really, really good about these next couple races. I’ve felt good about every track that we’ve gone to this year. That’s the thing; the way the cars have been driving and as competitive as we’ve been, I’m excited to go to every track because I feel like we have a shot at a win just about everywhere we go.”