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NASCAR: Gordon to lead field on his final Daytona 500 start

Gordon qualified for the lead position for a race for the 78th time in 762 races spanning a 23-year career. Only one other time has Gordon started the Daytona 500 from the pole position. That came in 1999 when he won his second of three 500s. It was also the first time since 1987 that a driver won the pole position by eclipsing 200 miles per hour.
“This is definitely huge for many reasons,” Gordon said after a day of qualifying. “This is one I’ve been stressing about for a while.”
Primarily among those reasons is the fact this will be Gordon’s last Daytona 500. Last month, Gordon announced he will be retiring from full-time racing in the Sprint Cup Series.
“It’s going to be pretty important for me to be on that pole when it all starts,” he said. “I can’t think of anything cooler than to start this season, the Daytona 500, my final Daytona 500, final full season on the pole.”
Gordon started from the pole position one previous time. In 1999, he won the race after starting in the No. 1 slot. The rest of the starting field will be set later this week, at the Budweiser Duel races on Thursday.
Gordon knows that he is going to be followed around by the press in the months ahead as he does his final laps on many of the circuits.
“It’s business as usual,” Gordon said. “My schedule is not changing other than the little bit of work I have to do today when I leave here.”
Gordon began his career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, then called Winston Cup, in 1992, and began racing full-time a year later. In 1995, Gordon won the Winston Cup Series title, something he accomplished three other times (1997, 1998 and 2001). He has won the Daytona 500 three times (1997, 1999 and 2005). He holds several NASCAR Sprint Cup records including most consecutive years with at least one pole position (23) and is tied for the most number of race wins in one season (13). Gordon has competed in over 760 Sprint Cup races during his 23-year career, all with Hendrick Motorsports, and is third all-time in Sprint Cup wins (92).
All of that has little meaning for Gordon at this point. He is focused on the week ahead, preparation and the race on Feb. 22.
“I mean, yeah. I want to win the championship. I want points. But, right now, it’s the Daytona 500.” Gordon said. “All I want to focus on is winning the Daytona 500.”
He says there is a sort of mystique surrounding The Great American Race. And while it wouldn’t be a demoralizing start to his final season in the series, it certainly would be a great way to kick off 2015.
“If you don’t with (the 500, oh, well — it’s not the end of the world,” he stated. “But, boy, if you can win it, what a storybook type of beginning to the season it would be.”
One other driver secured his starting position for the Super Bowl of stock car racing during Sunday qualifying. Jimmie Johnson will start beside his teammate for the 2015 running of the Daytona 500. Johnson said knowing that he is starting on the front row and not having to battle it out during the Budweiser Duels relieves a great deal of pressure.
“It’s nice to be locked in,” he said. “You don’t have to take any big risks or chances. It’s nice to know we’ve got a great starting spot for the 500.”
Daytona Speedweeks, at Daytona International Speedway, continues with the two qualifying races for the Daytona 500 on Thursday, the Budweiser Duels, and the green flag drops for the 57th running of The Great American Race on Sunday, Feb 22.

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