DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Jeff Gordon jokingly said after Daytona 500 qualifying, “At least I was the fastest guy.”
Gordon cracked the one-liner after Danica Patrick won the pole for Sunday’s race, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR’s premier circuit. The four-time Cup champion hopes to get the last laugh by winning his fourth Daytona 500. Gordon will start on the outside of the front row, next to Patrick, and said his No. 24 will be one of the cars to beat.
“I think we’re in the best position to win the race,” Gordon said Saturday at his hauler.
Gordon skipped Saturday’s final Cup practice, saying he has a great car that should be strong all day in “The Great American Race.”
“These are the moments where I feel like we can shine,” Gordon said.
Gordon won the 500 in 1997, 1999 and 2005 and could use a fourth victory to ignite a needed boost for the start of the season. Gordon finished 10th in points last season, his worst since 2005 and second worst since his rookie year in 1993.
He’s been fast during Speedweeks _ and mostly forgotten. Patrick, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and defending series champion Brad Keselowski have sparked the most buzz over the last week and dominated the conversation in the racing world.
That’s fine with Gordon, and crew chief Alan Gustafson, who are OK driving under the radar as long as they drive into Victory Lane.
“It’s nice to be able to just go about it without too much attention, too much expectations and hype, so there aren’t many distractions,” he said.
Gordon will start fresh after his controversial end of the 2012 season. He intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer in Phoenix, triggering a garage-area melee between their crews. While many thought Gordon should have been suspended, he was fined $100,000 and raced in the season finale, which he won.