Jeff Gordon on previous Rolex run: 'There was a little bit left on the table'
Jeff Gordon cites “unfinished business” as the main reason behind his decision to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The 24-hour endurance race gets underway this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET on FOX. Additional coverage throughout the race from Daytona International Speedway will be carried by FS1 and FS2.
Gordon, a FOX Sports NASCAR analyst who retired as a full-time driver in NASCAR’s top series following the 2015 season, is one of the drivers who will be behind the wheel of the new No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for Wayne Taylor Racing. Gordon joins a four-driver team that also includes Max Angelelli and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor.
Gordon’s only other appearance in the Rolex 24 came 10 years ago in the 2007 event, when he also was part of a Wayne Taylor Racing team that finished third in its class with fellow drivers Wayne Taylor, Angelelli and Jan Magnussen. This time, Gordon would like to do more.
“It goes back to 2007, when Wayne Taylor and I got together and I did the Rolex 24 that year. After that race -- it was a fun experience -- but I felt like there was a little bit left on the table,” Gordon said. “I didn’t have a great experience in the rain, I had to get out of the car early and we finished third. I’ve just always felt there was some unfinished business there.
“But it takes a big commitment to do it right and I wanted to do it right. So, I thought (another run in the Rolex 24) probably wouldn’t happen while I was still driving the Cup car.”
He was right about that. But after he finished up as a full-time driver in Cup following the 2015 season (he did sub for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. for eight races last season), Gordon was pleased that Wayne Taylor reached out to him about doing another Rolex 24.
“Wayne and I stayed in contact and maintained a friendship and he knew I’d like to do it again some day -- so when I announced I was stepping away from the Cup car, it wasn’t long after that that I got a call from Wayne saying, ‘Hey, would you like to come back and do it?’ “ Gordon said. “The really cool part that he was holding onto at that time was that Cadillac and Dallara were building this new prototype and the series was moving to these prototype cars, and that got me extremely excited.
“I’ve always wanted to race a car that’s like this -- exotic looking, performs just unbelievably -- but I also knew I needed to get enough time in the car. It was important for me to get enough time in the car in November and December and January.”
Gordon has gotten that this time around.
He took his first laps in the new Cadillac DPi during a test at Charlotte Motor Speedway in November and also was in attendance at IMSA-sanctioned tests at Daytona last Dec. 13-14 and again earlier this month.
Gordon said he is gaining a better feel for the car, which has impressed him mightily in its performance capabilities.
“I drove the (Williams) Formula One car back in 2003 and I’ve always said it was the most awesome experience of just pure driving, because of what the car was capable of doing -- more than I think my body was capable of doing,” Gordon said. “This is the closest thing that’s come (to that) for me, in terms of how aggressive you can brake the car, how quickly it stops, how much downforce it has through the higher speed corners. It’s been a really, really fun experience.”
Not that it wasn’t a major adjustment, as Gordon also is quick to point out.
“At first it was a bit overwhelming because the steering wheel has a lot of buttons on it, there is a lot of technology involved and I’ve had to learn how to be prepared for the race and tune the car from inside,” he said. “That’s been a big steep learning curve for me.”
FOX Sports will provide a total of 25 hours of race coverage of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, beginning with the start of the race at 2 p.m. ET on FOX this Saturday.