Gordon back on top with Sprint Cup victory

With five top-5 finishes and eight top-10 finishes on the board, Jeff Gordon is still consistent. (Orlin Wagner/AP)

Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that Jeff Gordon is still very much a primary competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car racing series, and not just the professional celebrity race face of Canadian Motor Speedway as the designer of our speed plant.

So it was nothing short of excellent to see the four-time champion finally make it to victory lane at Kansas Speedway, to all but stake his claim in the 2014 Chase for the Championship.

Jeff’s been very strong over the first 10 races of this NASCAR Sprint Cup season, but a win was the only thing missing from his tally. You knew it was only a matter of time before Jeff pulled his No. 24 into victory lane.

With five top-5 finishes and eight top-10 finishes on the board, Gordon is still consistent. He’s been good enough to hold onto the points lead into a fifth week. Kansas was win No. 89 for Gordon, in a career that’s spanned over 20 years. He’s been one of the biggest and most influential players in the sport.

“It just feels so good to get that first win of the season, especially this year with the points structure and how close we’ve been so many weekends,” Gordon told the media afterwards. I think that, while that’s a huge relief off our shoulders, it’s probably going to just make us that much hungrier to go get that next one.”

Gordon won his fourth championship back in 2001, all under the old “Winston Cup” banner. He said at the start of the season that he very much wants a Sprint Cup championship trophy and to be the first driver to win it using the new revised Chase format.

Jeff also hinted that, should he win the title this season, it might be the perfect time to retire and call it a career by finishing on top.

But I’m not so sure the “retirement” word is etched in stone.

This season, with Hendrick Motorsports veteran Crew Chief Alan Gustafson calling the strategy, Jeff is driving with renewed focus and intensity. Should he wind up winning the Sprint Cup this year, I can see the Vallejo, California-native sticking around to try for a sixth — or even a seventh — title.

Sure, he’ll be 43-years old in August, an age some might consider a little long in the tooth, but winning and running at the front is like taking a big swig from the fountain of youth.

Gordon also has some unfinished business to look after. With 89 wins, he’s just 16 shy of tying David Pearson’s 105 victories for second place on the all-time win list. And a fifth title for Gordon would put him just a pair behind tying the all-time record of seven championships shared by “The King” Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt. Those records just might be enough motivation for Jeff to stay in the game for a few more years.

As the designer of Canadian Motor Speedway, Jeff might work with us, but it’s extra special to be able to root for the guy when he straps into his stock car as one of the biggest NASCAR stars of our generation.

That privilege doesn’t come along very often.

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