When he won his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2001, it appeared Jeff Gordon was on track to equal or exceed the record seven titles won by Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.
Of course, at that time no one knew that Jimmie Johnson would win six championships in the next 12 seasons and pretty much thwart Gordon’s Drive For Five single-handedly.
Sure, Gordon has had a number of good seasons since 2001 and even a couple of great ones. In the last 12 years, the four-time champion finished in the top five in points five times and the top 10 a total of 11 times. Since his last title, Gordon has won 34 races, but he’s been unable to seal the deal for his coveted fifth championship.
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This year might be Gordon’s best chance.
Gordon, who leads the Sprint Cup points, will start Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway from the outside pole alongside pole-winner Matt Kenseth.
So far in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Gordon has four top-two finishes, including a victory at Dover. Asked by FOXSports.com if his confidence is the highest it’s been in years, Gordon confirmed that it is.
"It is. And it’s just been this team and the cars that I’ve been driving this year that have helped build that," said Gordon. "We’ve been really strong and we started early on in the season running well. And we’ve just been able to fine-tune on that as the year has gone on. And that builds chemistry and communication. You back that up with good performances and wins and getting in the position that we’re in now and yeah, your confidence is high. And mine is. It’s awesome. It feels good to be feeling this good in this position at this stage of the season."
Without question, Gordon knows he has a great chance to win No. 5 this year. You can hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes.
"I’m extremely hungry," Gordon said. "What I’m hungry the most about is just knowing that I’ve got a great car and a great team that’s capable of winning this championship. And being in the position we’re in, and knowing that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) had never a championship. He came close with Mark Martin (in 2009). And how hard he works and how good this team is. Not winning a championship since 2001 and never under this format. All those things are just motivation. But the primary motivation is just know that we’re good enough to do it and having that confidence to go out there and execute."
Gordon said his cars are fast enough and he wants to make sure he delivers for himself and the team and not for any mark in the record books.
"It’s really just taking advantage of the opportunity that I see in front of us, and we’ve got a great opportunity," said Gordon. "It is not really even about No. 5. It’s not about keeping somebody else from winning their first, or their seventh. It’s really just all about us trying to go out there and do what I think we are capable of doing. If we do that, the end result should be something very, very special."
VIDEO: A look back at Jeff Gordon’s win at Kansas earlier in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup