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Will Gordon follow sponsor's lead on No. 24 car?

June 07, 2013, David Caraviello,

Three-year deal with Axalta puts four-time champ's career in focus

LONG POND, Pa. -- Jeff Gordon’s longest-tenured primary car sponsor has renewed its deal with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2016 season -- so does that mean the driver of the No. 24 car will be behind the wheel for the duration of that agreement?

Axalta Coating Systems, which is the rebranded name of the former DuPont division that has been a fixture on Gordon’s car since his very first race, announced this week that it had signed a three-year extension with Hendrick Motorsports. The company is backing 14 events this season, and will serve as primary sponsor on the No. 24 car for 10 races annually over the span of the new deal.

"We go into every race trying to win."

--Jeff Gordon

Gordon turns 42 in August, and will be 45 years old when the renewed agreement ends at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Will the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion still be in the car at that point? As is often the case when the conversation turns to retirement talk, Gordon left open the possibility for anything. He has a lifetime contract with the Hendrick team.

“Can you pencil any driver in for every weekend for every year? I feel like the same things apply. Nothing has changed for me. We’re still competitive and still being challenged and have goals, and my back is hanging in there. We’ve got sponsorship, which is a positive thing for our team and the sport,” he said Friday at Pocono Raceway.

“Because of the transition and the sale of how DuPont went about it, this was a season that was sort of guaranteed. The next seasons ahead were not guaranteed, and so it’s pretty exciting to know that they have that interest and have been working with Hendrick to sign an extension. I want to race for a long time, but I can’t say how long that is going to be at this time.”

DuPont was on Gordon’s car for his very first race, at Atlanta in the finale to the 1992 season, and became a fixture on the vehicle in the years that followed. Sunday at Pocono will mark the first time the Axalta brand has appeared on the No. 24 car. In between, the driver and company have forged the longest-running partnership in NASCAR’s premier series. DuPont’s performance coatings division was purchased earlier this year by the Carlyle Group, which renamed it Axalta.

Gordon suffered from back problems a few years ago, but that condition has abated thanks in part to a training regimen. He also has two young children -- 5-year-old Ella and 2-year-old Leo -- and he’s often said he wants them to experience their father winning races and championships.

It certainly helps Gordon’s longevity that he remains a viable contender for both. He won two races last year, and despite a campaign fraught with mechanical difficulties still managed to narrowly snag a wild-card berth into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. This season he’s in 11th place in the standings coming to Pocono, where he won an August race last year that was shortened by weather.

“We go into every race trying to win,” said Gordon, who jumped four spots with his third-place run last week at Dover. “We’re further up in points at this point this year than we were last year, and I don’t feel like we’ve had a terrific season. We’ve certainly had our challenges, so it’s sort of refreshing to come to a place that we know we can win.”