Jimmie Johnson may have the golden horseshoe, but Jeff Gordon has found the golden goblet and he has dipped it deeply in the fountain of youth. The result of that magic elixir is a revitalized four-time champion at 42 years young.
“I just feel so competitive out there, and that makes me feel young again” says Gordon. “I just see how hard these guys are working. It’s making me work harder. I’ve been really working harder on my fitness, which I think is helping me mentally and physically be more prepared out there.”
The prescriptions is working wonders. “When the cars are that good, my back just doesn’t seem to hurt as much. The whole retirement thing I think is thrown out there too much, and I’m probably somewhat to blame, but there’s no secret, I’m going to be 43 this year, but, man, if 43 is like this, I can’t wait for 50. This is all right. I’m having a good time. That’s why I feel young, because I’m just having a great time.”
This isn’t a flash in the pan. We all know about the four championships and 89 victories, but when looking at what the 24 team has accomplished this year, what one sees is a team in a position to win every week. Other than the disaster (39th place) at Talladega, Gordon hasn’t finished outside the top 15 all year.
Did you see the look of elation in victory lane? Does that look like a worn driver ready for the rocking chair? No, that’s the thrill experienced when a driver with a burning in his belly to win realizes his dream- 20 years after his first win, no less.
In 2014′s competitive environment- where there is no clearly established front runner- why not talk of the “drive for five?” Supplying Gordon is the New York Yankees of NASCAR- Hendrick Motorsports- and sitting atop Gordon’s pit box is the cerebral Alan Gustafson, no stranger to winning after a highly successful campaign working for Mark Martin in 2009. When you combine that with a driver who has clearly NOT lost his edge, it’s no reach at all to think the Rainbow Warrior can’t pick off another Sprint Cup title…or two….or more, and reach the 100 win plateau, only scaled by two of the all-time greats: Richard Petty and David Pearson.
What with all the understanding we have today of nutrition and fitness, the safety innovations that save wear and tear on the driver, and free from the worries of finances, there’s no telling what Jeff Gordon is capable of. The Wonder Boy is back!