Gordon Has Super Hopes

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jeff Gordon has already witnessed the No. 24 play a significant role in two NFL teams' chase for a championship. He hopes his No. 24 DuPont team can enjoy the same type of success as they begin their chase for the first NASCAR Nextel Cup championship.

On January 18, Gordon watched as two No. 24's played a significant role in their teams' Super Bowl berths. Ricky Manning, No. 24 cornerback for the Carolina Panthers, intercepted three passes in Carolina's 14 - 3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Ty Law, No. 24 cornerback for the New England Patriots, also intercepted three passes in the Patriots' victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

"I grew up in the Bay Area, so I'm a huge fan of Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49er's," said Gordon, a native of Vallejo, Calif. "But it's hard not to pull for the Panthers when you've lived in Charlotte for so many years. It's great to see the excitement the Panthers have brought to this area.

"They played a great game against Philadelphia, and it didn't go unnoticed by me that Ricky Manning had a great game and wears 24. But just like our sport, it takes a team effort – not just a great individual effort – to win.

"Hopefully, they can pull off another by winning the Super Bowl."

Unlike the NFL, NASCAR kicks off the season with its 'Super Bowl,' the Daytona 500. While this is still the premier event of the season, the final 10 races of the year have taken on greater importance with NASCAR's introduction of the "Chase for the Championship."

Following the 26th race, drivers positioned in the top 10 or within 400 points of the leader will have their points "reset" for the final 10 races. Five points will separate each position as they begin the final stretch of 10 races to determine the NASCAR Nextel Cup champion.

"When I first heard there would be a change in the points system, I wasn't in favor of it," said Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Series champion. "The more I think about it, though, the more I like it.

"If we go through a bad stretch of races during the middle of the season, we can still recover to finish in the top 10 by race 26 and then battle for the championship. This DuPont team always seems to run well at the end of the year, and I like the mix of tracks in the final 10 races.

"We can't worry about those final 10 races, yet. Our focus right now is running well at Daytona during Speedweeks, starting with the Bud Shootout."

In 22 career starts at Daytona, Gordon has four victories including two Daytona 500's, two poles, eight top-five's and 11 top-10's. He has also captured two Busch Clash non-point events and two Twin-125 qualifying race victories.

"I haven't had the success I would have liked at Daytona the past few years," Gordon said. "I'm really looking forward to turning that around and starting the 2004 season with some momentum."

Momentum that could carry the No. 24 to the playoffs and a fifth championship.

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