Gordon Driven To Get Himself A New Wristwatch
By Jim Pedley | Senior Writer
Brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor are great drivers, a great story and great interviews. But, as they found out in recent weeks, they have been relegated to support players to ad hoc teammate Jeff Gordon for this weekend’s Rolex 24 sports car race at Daytona.
In a Tweet circulated last month, there is video of Gordon surrounded by reporters in the infield at Daytona International Speedway. Off to the side and alone and slightly out of focus, is Jordan Taylor. “Quickly finding out what it’s like to be Jeff Gordon’s teammate,” read Jordan’s accompanying text.
Two things about the situation. First, nobody is complaining about teaming with a superstar. Second, Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Cup champion and a dead-bang certain first ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer, isn’t driving in this year’s Rolex out of boredom.
With the brutish new No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac Daytona Prototype International (DPi) underneath them, the Taylors, Gordon and fourth driver Max Angelelli are united in an effort to earn them some very nice wrist watches.
“I’m pushing myself to be as strong as I can possibly be,” Gordon said. “I never like to be the weak link in an organization or a team and I have three phenomenal drivers who are going to push me. I’m enjoying it very much and having fun, but this is a race I’d like to win.”
This year’s drive in the 24 will be Gordon’s second – he teamed with the WTR in 2007 and finished third.
Gordon retired from full-time driving after the 2015 season. He was drafted back into a Cup car in 2016 for
spot duty after Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. began suffering concussion-like symptoms and was forced to the sidelines.
Before he stopped racing full-time, Gordon won 93 Cup races and three Daytona 500s.
Early last month, it was announced that Gordon would drive for WTR on the infield road circuit at Daytona.
Gordon turned his first laps at DIS in the Cadillac-powered and -badged Dallara in mid-December for a test.
“Oh man, that was a lot of fun,” Gordon said after finishing his stint in the car. “I’m thrilled to be here, and to finally get some laps in. It didn’t disappoint. To be able to drive a car that has that kind of downforce, and the kind of braking and cornering it’s capable of, it’s just an amazing piece of machinery.”
Word is, the 45-year-old Gordon’s preparations for the 24 have been fairly intense. Got to be that way, he said.
“I’ve been working so hard because I want to give these guys everything,” Gordon said. “I told Wayne years ago that I wasn’t going to come back to run this again unless I can put in the necessary amount of time and effort. I might be working harder this year than I think I’ve ever worked.
“Every lap I’ve made in the car has been helpful, as has the time I spent in the Dallara simulator in Indianapolis – that was big. I’ve definitely spent some time getting familiar with the seat, the steering wheel and how the car reacts. I anticipated feeling more comfortable here at Daytona than I did on the Charlotte road course, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The new Caddy had good speed in the three-day Roar Before the 24 open test and practice at DIS earlier in January. In the middle day of the three, the Caddy had the fastest lap during a rainy morning session and it belonged to Gordon’s co-driver Ricky Taylor at 1 minute, 51.854 seconds (114.5 mph).
Gordon’s ride this coming weekend is the result a long friendship with team owner Wayne Taylor. It was a friendship that was established in 2007 at the 24 and maintained over the years. In semi-retirement, Gordon got the call about this year’s Rolex. Gordon did not need to have his arm twisted by Taylor.
“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,” Gordon said, “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.”
The Cadillac prototype is not the most exotic, best performing race car Gordon has driven. It is No. 2, perhaps. No. 1, however, left him with a memory that led to No. 2
“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 told Fox Sports. “This is the closest thing that’s come 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. 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. That’s been a big steep learning curve for me.”
If things go well at Daytona this weekend – and they certainly could/should as WTR almost always runs among the leaders at Daytona – Gordon might consider driving a second endurance race. Make that The Endurance Race.
“I keep saying Le Mans is out there,” he said. “We’ll see how this goes. I think it would be a very cool race to do, but at the same time it’s different than Daytona. Daytona, you can get on the track in December and January and then you have the tests and practice. I hear Le Mans is not quite like that, so it might be something that never happens, but it’s certainly out there. I think if this experience goes well, it definitely opens up some doors, because let’s be honest, driving ovals pretty much my whole life, until you have some success or show what you are capable of doing in this type of a car, people don’t really take you seriously.”
FOX Sports will offer multi-platform coverage of the ROLEX 24 at DAYTONA, which kicks off the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season (all times ET; schedule subject to change)
- Saturday, Jan. 28 – 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM (FOX broadcast network, 3 hours)
- Saturday, Jan. 28 – 5:00 PM to 10 PM (FS2, 5 hours)
- Saturday, Jan. 28 – 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM (FOX Sports GO, 1 hour)
- Saturday/Sunday, Jan. 28-29 – 11:00 PM to 1:00 PM (FS2, 14 hours)
- Sunday, Jan. 29 – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM (FS1, 2 hours)
- Note: The entire race airs live on FOX Sports GO with FS1 authentication