Posted: 7:00 a.m. Saturday, May 11, 2013
Jeff Gordon will make his 700th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start - all consecutive on Saturday night in the Southern 500 at Darlington Speedway leading many to wonder just how many more starts the four-time Sprint Cup Series Champion has left in him.
Upon starting the race, Gordon will be 89 starts (roughly three years) behind Ricky Rudd's consecutive starts record on 789. With Gordon's back injury woes long behind him, many within the sport expect Gordon to make a run at that record.
But not so fast, Gordon told the media on Friday afternoon at Darlington.
"Never say never," Gordon said. "But that to me is like David Pearson's 105 wins. It's too far out there. You have to get closer before you can think realistically about those things. I never dreamed I'd make 700 consecutive starts. It's just an amazing thing for me to try to swallow right now because it's been an amazing run of great teams and cars ... so I'm just enjoying the moment right now of those 700 and not thinking ahead too much."
Instead of worrying about what the future may or may not hold, Gordon is instead focused on winning on Saturday night in that milestone start. It's no secret that Gordon was disappointed to miss out on scoring Hendrick Motorsports' 200th victory last season and the Southern 500 represents another opportunity at a "moment victory" for the seven-time Darlington winner.
He seems to think he has a shot too.
Gordon qualified seventh for the race and his team has insinuated that this is one of the better-prepared cars of the entire season, leaving it up to Gordon, who earned a Darlington stripe in practice, to continue pushing his equipment to contention.
Gordon was surprised to hear himself described as a championship contender during Friday's media session considering a third-consecutive slow start to his season has left him 14th in the championship standings and having to play catch up.
Still, Gordon believes his team is capable of putting wins together and it will be that success that will ultimately determine just how long Gordon decides to keep racing.
"I'm just saying it's so far out there I'm not thinking about it," Gordon said. "I just never have been one to look that far ahead. We've typically just looked at where our sponsors' agreements are or where my contract was... I just look at what are our sponsors and how they signed and how am I feeling and how competitive am I and does Rick want me in the seat and am I valuable to the organization?
"Once you get those questions out of the way during the off-season, then you just go and drive the wheels off of it and do your best as a drivers. So, I pretty much look at one year at a time at this stage. So I don't know if that's going to take me five more years or one more year. I really don't know."