NASCAR CHAMP, FOX SPORTS ANALYST JEFF GORDON TALKS ABOUT GETTING BEHIND THE WHEEL FOR ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA Photo Credits: Brian Cleary
FOX Sports opens its coverage of the 55th running of the ROLEX 24 at DAYTONA on Saturday, Jan. 28 (2:00 PM ET) with a familiar face serving as one of the drivers behind the wheel of the new No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R for Wayne Taylor Racing. Four-time NASCAR premier series champion and current FOX NASCAR analyst Jeff Gordon returns to the iconic endurance race for the first time in 10 years, joining co-drivers Max “The Ax” Angelelli and brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor for the twice-around-the-clock event at Daytona International Speedway.
Fresh off a driver-change practice that left him “bruised and sore all over,” and in FS1’s Charlotte-based studio preparing for the 2017 FOX NASCAR season, Gordon talks about taking on the challenge of the grueling event and what the future holds for him behind the wheel:
FOX SPORTS: How did this opportunity come to fruition and why the Rolex 24?
GORDON: “It goes back to 2007, when Wayne Taylor and I got together and I did the Rolex 24 that year. After that race -- it was a fun experience -- but I felt like there was a little bit left on the table. I didn’t have a great experience in the rain, I had to get out of the car early and we finished third. I’ve just always felt there was some unfinished business there, but it takes a big commitment to do it right and I wanted to do it right. So, I thought (another run in the Rolex 24) probably wouldn’t happen while I was still driving the Cup car.
“Wayne and I stayed in contact and maintained a friendship and he knew I’d like to do it again someday, so, when I announced I was stepping away from the Cup car, it wasn’t long after that that I got a call from Wayne saying, ‘Hey, would you like to come back and do it?’ The really cool part that he was holding onto at that time was that Cadillac and Dallara were building this new prototype and the series was moving to these prototype cars, and that got me extremely excited. I’ve always wanted to race a car that’s like this -- exotic looking, performs just unbelievably -- but I also knew I needed to get enough time in the car. It was important for me to get enough time in the car in November and December and January.”
FOX SPORTS: Describe the experience of your test sessions behind the wheel of the new Cadillac.
GORDON: “I drove the (WilliamsF1) Formula One car back in 2003 and I’ve always said it was the most awesome experience of just pure driving, because of what the car was capable of doing -- more than I think my body was capable of doing. This is the closest thing that’s come for me, in terms of how aggressive you can brake the car, how quickly it stops, how much downforce it has through the higher speed corners. It’s been a really, really fun experience. At first it was a bit overwhelming because the steering wheel has a lot of buttons on it, there is a lot of technology involved and I’ve had to learn how to be prepared for the race and tune the car from inside. That’s been a big steep learning curve for me.”
FOX SPORTS: Is there anything left on your “bucket list” as a racer?
GORDON: “I keep saying Le Mans is out there. We’ll see how this goes. I think it would be a very cool race to do, but at the same time it’s different than Daytona. Daytona, you can get on the track in December and January and then you have the tests and practice. I hear Le Mans is not quite like that, so it might be something that never happens, but it’s certainly out there. I think if this experience goes well, it definitely opens up some doors, because let’s be honest, driving ovals pretty much my whole life, until you have some success or show what you are capable of doing in this type of a car, people don’t really take you seriously.”
FOX SPORTS: Fellow Cup Series champion Tony Stewart recently announced a very aggressive 70-plus race schedule following his NASCAR retirement … any plans to do anything similar?
GORDON: “I don’t want to go do a full season or as many races as Tony is doing. I don’t plan on getting in any midgets or sprint cars, but I will say, watching the Chili Bowl, it’s hard not to get the bug. I certainly want to go TO that event, but I don’t think it will be behind the wheel. Tony has a skillset that I’ve always been impressed with, being able to hop in a lot of different cars and show speed and win and be competitive.
“I actually read an article that someone sent me the other day from 1988 or ’89 and that was me back then. I was hopping in everything and anything and doing well. As I got to the Cup Series, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to stick with one series, put all my energy into it and be the best I can be at that. So, that sort of molded me as to where I am today – and if I’m going to do something, I am going to be all in and I want to put myself into position or in a situation where I am contributing to the team in a way that we can win.”
FOX Sports offers multi-platform coverage of the ROLEX 24 at DAYTONA, which kicks off the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season (all times ET; schedule subject to change)
• Saturday, Jan. 28 – 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM (FOX broadcast network, 3 hours)
• Saturday, Jan. 28 – 5:00 PM to 10 PM (FS2, 5 hours)
• Saturday, Jan. 28 – 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM (FOX Sports GO, 1 hour)
• Saturday/Sunday, Jan. 28-29 – 11:00 PM to 1:00 PM (FS2, 14 hours)
• Sunday, Jan. 29 – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM (FS1, 2 hours)
• Note: The entire race airs live on FOX Sports GO with FS1 authentication
Brian Till hosts FOX Sports pre-race programming, with Greg Creamer, Calvin Fish, Tommy Kendall and Till sharing time in the booth and Justin Bell, Chris Neville, Matt Yocum and Jamie Little reporting from the pits.
Twitter: @Rolex24Hours @FOXSports @FS1 @JeffGordonWeb @JustinBellTV @GregCreamer13 @BrianTill19 @CalvinFish @TommyKendall11 @MattYocum @ChrisNeville84 @JamieLittleTV
Nice! Way to go guys! Good and dry over here but u may have to draw straws for the one spot on the couch. https://t.co/4pLTZHHYbS— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) January 28, 2017