Gordon out to reverse '05 season

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DAYTONA 500 TESTING
Gordon out to reverse '05 season

By RICK MINTER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/11/06 Daytona Beach, Fla. ? For NASCAR drivers, Daytona International Speedway in January is the land of eternal optimism. Drivers enter the preseason test sessions tied in points - at zero - and seem totally sincere in their predictions of race wins and championship runs.
But only a few will enjoy the spoils of victory. For the rest, the harsh realities of racing set in next month when Speedweeks officially gets under way.
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</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><!--startclickprintinclude--><!--begintext-->But there's something about the way Jeff Gordon is driving and talking this month that sets him apart from most of the other hopefuls.
He was fastest in Tuesday's test session with a lap at 188.466 mph, besting Bill Elliott by a few ticks of the stopwatch. And he's still downright mad about last season, a year in which he won four times but finished poorly in so many other events that he missed the cut for the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
That irritation could be really bad news for his competitors.
"For me, it's when the end of the day comes on Sunday, and you look at the results, and you drove your guts out, and you finished 12th or 15th . . . Or it's your fifth straight crash in a row," he said. "Those are the types of things that motivate me. It just makes me angry. I know what we're capable of."
What he's capable of is dominating the sport, and his career stats show that.
In 13 seasons, Gordon, 34, has 73 victories, 54 poles, four championships and $74 million in official earnings. And his Hendrick Motorsports team is considered, along with Roush Racing, one of the sport's two superpower organizations.
"I think that when you come to work at Hendrick Motorsports, especially in the 24 car and the success we've had, there's a lot of pressure that comes along, and expectations," Gordon said. "You either step up to the plate, or you have got to move on.
"I take those things, and I motivate myself from them."
Gordon said passing the late Dale Earnhardt on the career win list ? he's three away from tying Earnhardt for sixth all-time in Cup victories ? is not important to him right now.
"I'm not out there to prove anything, to beat any statistics or records or anything like that," he said. "I've far exceeded anything that I ever dreamed I would have had accomplished in racing."
The point Gordon kept hammering on during a lunch break with media members on Tuesday was his desire to put his disappointing performances of 2005 behind him.
"I think that my motivation really just comes from lack of success knowing that I've had success, and I think this team really motivates themselves the same way," he said. "They just know what we should be capable of and what we should be accomplishing."
Hendrick Motorsports vice-president Doug Duchart said he's noticed that Gordon seems primed to take his team, with new crew chief Steve Letarte at the helm, back to the pinnacle of the sport.
"[Gordon] is invigorated," Duchart said. "He sees the potential of that team and that car."
And Duchart, a former General Motors executive who joined Hendrick's team last year, said the entire company is recharged for a strong 2006 run.
"As a whole at Hendrick Motorsports, we feel better top to bottom about the way we're prepared for this year than we have in a long time," he said.



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The General

Another Day, Another Dollar
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Daytona

Daytona

Hendricks will be TOUGH to beat, but JR/Stewart and Mikey will be there working together. Sadler just doesn't have the help. Not sure the Rousch garage has the power here.
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