Gordon Rides Confidence to Phoenix

Jeff Gordon

"I feel we have made some great improvements with how competitive we are at Phoenix and a lot of that is just confidence in how far you can push the car." (Photo: Getty Images)

A top-five Daytona 500 finish has Jeff Gordon feeling good about the start to the season heading into Phoenix.

Gordon kicked off 2014 with a solid showing in “The Great American Race” and notched a fourth-place finish. Short of winning the race, the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion could not have been happier with the Daytona effort.

“It felt amazing,” Gordon said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. “It seems like not just in the 500, but in the 400 as well it’s just been so long since we’ve been able to be in position at the end to have a chance at it. Especially the way that race went down, it was a crazy race after the rain.

“I’m also still accepting of fourth because of what we’ve done the last nine years by not only having a top-five, but like a top-15. It’s been really hard to get our season started with any momentum after coming out of Daytona so far behind. That’s a great way for us to get started. I can just see a difference in the team. The team is really pumped up and excited to go to these next several races and show what we can do.”

Gordon feels that along with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., the good start to the campaign will certainly be beneficial in the early part of the schedule.

He thinks Earnhardt’s win, which basically punched his ticket to the Chase under the new championship system, will be especially valuable.

“There’s no doubt, this sport is so much about confidence and believing in one another,” he said. “We’ve all said that one race doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything, but boy with the new points system it certainly guarantees a lot. That allows you to continue to build that confidence and just push the envelope of your setups, your pit strategy, how you’re driving and with the kind of confidence he has coming from last year and now off of this race, you would think that will transfer over to the next several races.

“Now we get to the downforce tracks and if those guys perform well on these next few tracks, watch out. I think anything is possible.”

Gordon enters Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 in search of his third career Phoenix Sprint Cup victory. His last win came in 2011 and since that trip to Victory Lane, Gordon has finishes of 34th and 19th among his last four starts.

So there’s definitely room for improvement.

“I feel we have made some great improvements with how competitive we are at Phoenix and a lot of that is just confidence in how far you can push the car,” said Gordon. “And the grip level has improved – it was like a razor's edge when they first repaved and reconfigured the track. It was difficult to judge where that 'edge' was.

“The last race here I thought we had a car capable of winning or finishing top three, but we had some difficulty on a late-race restart (and finished 14th). Better restarts are something I'm focusing on this year.”

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