Jeff Gordon set to turn ‘Drive for Five’ into high gear in Chase

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Given where he’s at right now, retirement appears to be the furthest thing from Jeff Gordon’s mindset.

Having finished second in Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, and entering the upcoming Chase as the No. 2 seed, Gordon is unquestionably bound and determined to fulfill his season-long goal of a fifth career Sprint Cup championship.

He’s been chasing his “Drive For Five” since his fourth Cup crown in 2001, but this year could very well be the time Gordon finally realizes that goal.

“I’m very confident because we have such a great race team,” Gordon told ESPN after the race. “I’m so proud of Alan (crew chief Alan Gustafson), all of our engineers and everyone on this No. 24 team.”

Not only has Gordon led the Sprint Cup standings for 15 of the first 26 races this season, he also earned his 17th top-10 finish in the same 26 races. That equalizes the total number of top-10 finishes he had all of last season.

“Our fans, the way they’ve embraced this season, has been extremely motivating,” Gordon said. “I know how proud they are and we know how proud we are of the effort and the results that we’re getting this year. Ten more weeks that we have to get it done, and this team’s ready to do that.”

Had there been maybe another five more laps, Gordon may very well have caught eventual race winner and Chase No. 1 seed Brad Keselowski.

“I didn’t feel like we had a car that could compete with Brad at some points of the night, but we never gave up,” Gordon said. “Great pit stops and adjustments at the end and we were closing on him (Keselowski).

“It wasn’t a win, but still great momentum to carry into the Chase. This team’s on fire and we can’t wait to get it started.”

Gordon, who turned 43 last month, praised Gustafson for being one of the major reasons why the team has performed so well this season.

“We clicked, I’ve felt, right from the beginning, but I don’t know if we’ve ever really had the chemistry or been in sync like we are right now,” Gordon said of Gustafson. “I believe in him 100 percent and he believes in me 100 percent, and that’s trickled down to the rest of the team.

“This is the team I want to go to battle with for the next 10 weeks. … It’s a team that really believes in one another. You can’t ask for more than that. Well, fast race cars, but we have that, too.”

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Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.