It appears Jeff Gordon just can’t stand to stay out of a race car.
Gordon, the FOX Sports NASCAR analyst and four-time NASCAR Premier Series champion, will headline Wayne Taylor Racing’s lineup for next month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in the team’s new Cadillac DPi-V.R, it was announced on Thursday.
Gordon joins brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli at the wheel of the Dallara-based Prototype, in what will mark Gordon’s first sports-car racing start in 10 years.
"I know that Ricky and Jordan are super-fast, and I believe it will be a very strong combination," Gordon said.
Gordon, 45, first retired from full-time driving in NASCAR’s top series following the 2015 season — when he made the transition to the FOX broadcasting booth. But after spending the first half of the 2016 season in the booth for FOX, Gordon was called upon by car owner Rick Hendrick to sub for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for eight races in the latter half as Earnhardt recovered from a concussion.
As for his sports-car history, Gordon took part in the 2007 Rolex 24 in a WTR-entered Riley-Pontiac DP, finishing third on the podium alongside Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen.
It was Gordon’s only endurance racing start to date, in a storied 35-plus year career that’s included more than 90 NASCAR Premier Series wins, 81 poles and nearly 500 top-10 finishes in stock-car racing competition.
"I really enjoyed racing in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2007 with Max, Wayne and Jan," Gordon said. "When I announced I would no longer be competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, my hope was that I would get an opportunity like this to compete again in such a prestigious event, with Konica Minolta and Wayne Taylor Racing, with the hopes of winning it this time."
Gordon got his first laps in the new Cadillac DPi during a 24-hour endurance test at Charlotte Motor Speedway last month and is expected to be in attendance at the IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona on Dec. 13-14.
"We are excited to have Jeff back in the lineup with us for the 2017 Rolex 24," team owner Wayne Taylor said. "He was with us when we started this race team back in 2007 and he helped us finish on the podium.
"We have kept in close touch ever since and have always been looking for another opportunity to have him join our driver lineup. That opportunity is finally here after his retirement from full-time competition in NASCAR and we are very much looking forward to working with him again."
Both Ricky and Jordan Taylor will continue as full-season drivers for a fourth consecutive season, with Angelelli again tabbed for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races.
"It used to be common to have NASCAR guys joining teams for the Rolex but, over recent years, it’s become less and less frequent," Jordan Taylor added. "Jeff Gordon is a name that everyone knows worldwide. He is one of the biggest names in motorsports. He drove with my dad and Max at the Rolex back in 2007, so it’ll be cool to have a 10-year reunion with him and the team.
"Sports car racing offers a unique perspective for drivers, where we have to share the same car. I can’t wait to compare notes and feedback with such a legend of our sport. It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime."