Gordon Ready For Rebound

Jeff Gordon went winless in 2008 for the first time since his second full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the four-time champion wants to rectify that this year in his quest for another title.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver did make the Chase last season and felt there was improvement as the year went on, which has him confident he's in store for a better season in 2009 starting with the Daytona 500.

"This is the first time I’ve ever seen our team, the engineers, everybody sitting down and just really being able to go through some data and analyze things,” Gordon said. “You get this group of individuals that are as sharp as they are and you give them time to rethink things or try to improve on what we’ve already had, and I think that can be a pretty dangerous combination, so I’m extremely excited. I think Daytona’s not going to change a whole lot."

Neither is Gordon's crew chief.

There was some speculation that team owner Rick Hendrick might shake-up the No. 24 squad and move current crew chief Steve Letarte to another assignment within the company.

But that is something that did not take place during the off-season and Letarte is set to continue the team's climb back into title contention despite the pressure.

“I’m proud to deal with that,” Letarte said. “I took this job knowing all the details of this job. I’m a Boston Red Sox fan, and you coach for the New York Yankees or the Red Sox, you better take them to The World Series, and you know that going in. I knew when I took over as Jeff Gordon’s crew chief we were expected to win races and contend for championships and win championships. I can tell everyone out there that doesn’t believe it, the toughest critic in that garage area of me is me."

Letarte wasn't pleased at how last season went as a whole even with the end-of-season improvement.

“There’s no one more disappointed with our performance last year than I am, and there’s no one in this building or in this complex [at Hendrick] that’s going to work harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again than I will," he said.

Both Letarte and Gordon are ready to put last season behind them and focus on a new year and its opportunities.

“Last year we could handle it,” Gordon said of the winless season. “We do it for another year and that’s going to get a little bit tougher to take because I think you go two seasons in a row and that’s when things start to sink in a little bit more of ‘Where am I at in my career and where are we at as a team?’ So, I’m certainly hoping we don’t have to deal with that but, I don’t want to think about that right now.”

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2009

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