Jeff Gordon wants to complete set with Kentucky win
July 10, 2015, Jessica Ruffin, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Full race lineup | Complete Kentucky preview
SPARTA, Ky. -- Jeff Gordon has recorded 92 wins in his storied NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and has celebrated in Victory Lane at every track -- except one.
"It wouldn't mean so much to me if I hadn't won on all the other ones," Gordon said with a smile on Friday after NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Kentucky. "It's the newest track that has been added on the schedule, so we haven't been able to come here for a long time. It would just mean a lot to win it."
Sunday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, Sirius XM) is Gordon's final chance to seal the deal at the asphalt oval before his retirement at the end of the 2015 season. In four starts at Kentucky, the No. 24 Chevrolet has put on strong performances, pulling off four top-10 finishes.
But for Gordon, close just isn't good enough in his final Kentucky foray.
"It's not if we don't win that I'm going to be super disappointed," Gordon said. "I'm going to be disappointed if we finish second. To come that close, yeah, that would be a little disappointing as far as the stats go. But I would like to have a good, strong finish here and just have a shot at it."
For the No. 24 team, making it to the front will be its biggest battle. Despite Gordon's solid finishes, he's yet to lead a lap around the 1.5-mile track.
The zero in his "Laps Led" column puzzles the Hendrick Motorsports driver, as he has paced the field at every track for at least 182 laps, his best track being Martinsville with an impressive 3,744 laps led.
"This is just a tough race track," Gordon said. "I'm not really sure. I feel like we have always run well toward the end of the race, but maybe didn't always start off as strong. Maybe it's a qualifying thing, too. We just haven't qualified up front.
"Hopefully, that changes this weekend."
Gordon's third-place starting position, set by opening practice times due to inclement weather, could give him the leverage he needs to make a strong run to the front. And while growing pains may come with the new rules package debuting this weekend -- which Gordon reserves most opinions about until he runs a little more -- bumpy Kentucky already causes Gordon physical pain.
Perhaps it's a good pain -- it takes him back to the early days.
"When I think of this track, I just think of how challenging it is and how rough it is, how much my back hurts and how much I'd like to win here because we never have," Gordon said. "I love that fact that when we came here, especially the first time, the way that racing is supported in this part of the country.
"It reminded me of Indiana. I used to race in Evansville -- not to far from here -- I raced sprint cars, and it just didn't surprise me how when we come here, there's a lot of huge race fans, not just NASCAR fans, but just huge race fans, that want to see a great race and came out to support us here."
That's just what Gordon will look to do on Sunday, as he climbs into his No. 24 for the last time at Kentucky: Give fans a great race. No matter the outcome, to Gordon's longtime fans, he'll always be celebrated.
"When I heard the crowd applaud on race day (at Sonoma) for driver introductions, it really hit me and stuck with me, and it was cool," Gordon said. "The cheers and the support have been overwhelming everywhere we've gone.
"Other than that, the only place that I think it's really going to hit me like, 'Wow, this is really happening,' is (his final race) in Homestead."