No. 24 Hendrick driver races at Pocono one last time; talks Chase chances RELATED: Complete lineup for Sunday's race " See all 43 paint schemes Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) will be Jeff Gordon 's final start at Pocono Raceway. While he appreciates the support Pennsylvania fans have given him over the years, he won't be sentimental about his last trip to the Tricky Triangle because he's still a win away from making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "I'm so focused on the competition and trying to compete at a high level, trying to get ourselves in a position to win the race, win the pole, be in the Chase, I just can't and haven't been able to allow it to sink in," Gordon said. "It might not happen until the race is over at Homestead. I have no idea when that's going to impact or sink in." The reality of his current points position hit hard when he finished 42nd last week at Indianapolis and his margin over Clint Bowyer , the last driver currently in the Chase on points, narrowed to 37 points. Just a week earlier, he enjoyed a 71-point cushion over the final provisional Chase position. RELATED: See updated series standings In his final full-time season, Gordon wants to do more than just make the Chase; he wants to compete for his fifth championship. "Obviously having a bad finish like that, it can shake things up in a hurry," Gordon said. "I think our team is very capable of getting ourselves in the Chase, but we want more than that. We want to be battling for wins, and we're fighting extremely hard to do that. We know what a win can do in securing that spot, but we're also a strong team that has overcome adversity in the past. We're going to fight all the way through Richmond to make sure no matter what, whether it's by points or with a win, that we get ourselves in there." The six-time winner at Pocono stands atop the all-time leaderboard at the track, and Hendrick Motorsports ' 17 victories are nearly twice as many as the next closest teams on the list. Joe Gibbs Racing and Roger Penske have nine apiece. Gordon also enjoys racing on the unique three-sided surface. "I love the challenge that this race track presents on track," Gordon said. "I've been driving for a team that has great performance on tracks like this as well. We've been known to get down the straightaways pretty good. This place has a lot of straightaway, but I also like the shifting and the unique corners that are here as well." Gordon acknowledged how the negative side of the fast straightaways figured into the single moment that stands out from his 23 years of racing at the facility. "I wrecked really bad in Turn 1, that stands out," Gordon said, referring to a 2006 crash. "It's funny those types of incidents stand out to you as much as some of the good moments that you have. You never forget moments like that. Let's put it that way. "I can remember coming here early, early on and maybe even watching a race here or an IndyCar race here on TV prior to me ever racing here and just in awe of how long the front straightaway was, how fast the cars are going into Turn 1. And I always said, 'You don't ever want to have a brake problem going into Turn 1 at Pocono,' and I had one and experienced it so that stands out to me." But the people of Pocono Raceway have left a lasting impression as well. On Friday, track president Brandon Igdalsky presented Gordon with a $24,000 check for the Jeff Gordon Foundation to go with nearly $58,000 raised Thursday night for Gordon's foundation and The NASCAR Foundation at a charity poker tournament. In addition to the funds, Igdalsky's team painted " Gordon " on the track, which didn't go unnoticed by the driver of the No. 24 car. RELATED: Gordon , Wallace cash in chips for a good cause "This track has been really special to me over the years," Gordon said. "I thought it was enough that you put my name at the start/finish line but what we did last night at the event and this (check) is above and beyond." The fans of the area welcomed Gordon as a young racer, even before he joined NASCAR's premier series, and he's continued to benefit from their support throughout his racing career. "I go back to when I raced dirt around Pennsylvania and Ohio and Indiana in sprint car racing and how big racing is in this state," Gordon said. "And I think that was very evident to me immediately when I got in the Cup Series and started flying into the airports here, and it was always the biggest crowds of fans that we had, anywhere we went, standing there waiting for the teams and the drivers to arrive, wanting to get a glimpse, a picture, an autograph. "That's been maintained throughout all the years, and when I put a fan club together, our largest number of members were from Pennsylvania, if you took it by state. This is a big racing part of the country, and I think that's why the track has continued to do so well through the years because they have people that love racing, that love NASCAR racing." The four-time champion's love for Pocono would grow with a win this weekend that would keep alive his drive for five titles. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Pocono Raceway President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky makes a $24,000 donation to the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation.
Jeff Gordon says his crash at Indy was disappointing, but his team is going to fight for a win and a way into the Chase all the way through the race at Richmond.
Driver of No. 24 was trying to avoid spinning Clint Bowyer RELATED: Gordon says goodbye to the Brickyard Jeff Gordon ran into trouble on Lap 50 in his final appearance as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon damaged the left-front side of his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet when he hit the wall at the 2.5-mile superspeedway while trying to avoid a spinning Clint Bowyer . Gordon made light contact with teammate Kasey Kahne 's No. 5 Chevrolet as he veered right to avoid Bowyer. The driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 15 Toyota was racing alongside Kevin Harvick when his car appeared to get loose and went into a spin. "I was underneath Kasey Kahne and we were just racing for position," Gordon said. "I saw (Clint) Bowyer get sideways. I don't know what caused it. Me and Kasey were trying to check up to avoid it. I don't know if he got loose or we just both got loose together. Then I just lost control and got in the wall." Gordon , a five-time winner at Indianapolis who spent time racing as a teenager while living in Pittsboro, Indiana, went to pit road twice to get significant repairs. The second time, NBCSN reported that the crew had to cut away part of the left-front fender to prevent it from rubbing the tire, and he was penalized for speeding on pit road. RELATED: Gordon goes home to Pittsboro Gordon returned to the track but, by Lap 66, was scored five laps down. The NASCAR tower asked Gordon to pick up his speed as he was having trouble meeting the minimum 58.11-second lap required of cars in the race. When Gordon couldn't meet the speed, he brought the No. 24 to the garage. "Yeah, we're never going to give up," Gordon said. "We got back out there as fast as we could. The splitter was too torn up on the front and creating lift. The car didn’t have any front downforce and was pushing bad. We're probably going to cut the nose off, put a new nose on and get back out there." Gordon got back out on the track eventually and was scored 42nd in his final run at the Brickyard. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Pittsboro, Indiana honored one of its favorite sons, Jeff Gordon , prior to this weekend's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Pittsboro, Indiana welcomes emotional four-time NASCAR champion PHOTOS: Hometown honors Gordon with parade PITTSBORO, Ind. -- There's a sign on the Subway storefront proclaiming "Chicken Salad is Back" and the Cork & Cap package liquor establishment is nearby. Across the street, there's the Dollar General with the sign "You Make Us Proud Jeff " out front. Next door is the Pittsboro Veterinary Clinic and Big Tuck's Feed & More sits on the corner of Main and Maple Streets. A single traffic light is all that's required in this tiny town of 3,000 residents. A helicopter buzzes overhead as hundreds of folks crane their necks, looking down the street. It's high noon and the parade has begun. Jeff Gordon , five times a winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a four-time NASCAR champion, is being honored here. The town's most popular son, by way of California, has come home. RELATED: Photos, recaps of Gordon's 21 Brickyard 400s The Hendrick Motorsports driver is winding up an incredible career in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, and this weekend's Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM) will be his last at the legendary facility as a driver. His 92 career wins is most among active drivers and third on NASCAR's all-time win list. At season's end, he'll be Jeff Gordon the racer no more. The procession slowly makes its way down Main Street, led by a Pittsboro Police Department cruiser. Members of the Tri-West Marching Band are close behind, with a Boy Scout troop, members representing American Legion Post 426, various dignitaries, Little League players, soccer players (state finalists, the banner proclaims), representatives from IMS and state officials parade past the crowd. Eventually, the white Chevrolet convertible eases down the street, with Gordon seated in back, smiling and waving to the crowd. Less than 20 minutes after it starts, the parade ends. But Jeff Gordon Day in Pittsboro is only beginning. • • • Fans are seen carrying die-casts, pieces of sheet metal and one even has a racing tire in tow. Most here at Scamahorn Park have their attention turned to the stage, where various dignitaries are speaking on behalf of Gordon . It's Jeff Gordon Day "not just here in Pittsboro," Indiana Gov. Mike Pence tells the crowd, "but ... I declare (it) in all 92 counties." Pence presents Gordon with the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest honorary award given by the state. There were proclamations, plaques and a badge -- Gordon is now an honorary member of the Pittsboro Police Dept. -- as well. "My parents had a lot of reasons why we came here," Gordon told the crowd, "but racing was a big, big part of it; maybe the primary reason. "But they found this nice home ... in Pittsboro. They wanted to be here. They found that home, and we lived there for a very long time and just loved being here in Indiana. I've got some of my best friends that I've ever had in life that I still stay in touch with that are still living here in Pittsboro or right around here." Gordon was honored. He was also emotional. "This to me today has been one of the best days of my life," he said as the crowd cheered. "I say that sincerely ... because I get to see what Pittsboro not only meant to me but what it means to you guys. And it's an awesome town and the way you guys came out and supported me and what I've done in racing, what the Brickyard has meant to me and what this town has meant to me ... thank you guys, this means the world to me, it really does." • • • They could have lived anywhere. In fact, Pittsboro wasn't the first stop for Gordon and his parents, John and Carol Bickford, when the family looked to move from Vallejo, California. "In 1985 when we came back to race (in the Midwest), we lived in Findlay, Ohio," John Bickford said. "We knew a guy in quarter midget racing that lived in Findlay ... He said, 'Hey you can work out of my shop if you want, I've got an apartment here with two rooms I don't use, you can stay in here this summer.' So we lived in Findlay, Ohio for the summer of '85." But Findlay proved too problematic. It wasn't centrally located, it wasn't close to those that built Gordon's sprint cars and it wasn't close to the tracks where he competed each weekend. If one were to draw a line at a 45-degree angle or so, beginning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the line heading northwest would go through Brownsburg, Pittsboro, Lizton (where Gordon attended Tri-West High School) and eventually Jamestown. Pittsboro was perfect. "It was close to the car manufacturers, close to the people we know, close to the school he's got to go to," Bickford said. "We've got a piece of property that's five acres so we can build a shop with no restrictions. ... So all the boxes were checked." It made perfect sense to Gordon , who said he was "100 percent all in" for the move. His racing career "really only became a serious reality because of Lee Osborne out in Jamestown who built our first sprint car," Gordon said. "And also the Stanley family that lived out in Brownsburg and used to build my quarter midgets, that are now building my kids' quarter midgets. "Those two families really were responsible for us first coming to Indiana and recognizing that we needed to be here if we wanted to take racing seriously." • • • Northwest of the famed speedway, out past Clermont and Brownsburg, the cornstalks are tall and green. Just down County Road 100, the brick ranch sits back off the highway. "It picks up quite a bit when the race is in town," Michael Lang says. Folks stop by, unannounced and uninvited, but Lang says he's used to it. Jeff Gordon grew up here. Raced out of here. Laid the foundation for his legacy here. The race shop out back is now home of Fluid Transfer Products, a company that Lang says "builds hoses and fittings" and similar products. He and his wife, Sherry, have been the owners of home and business here since 2000. Before that, Lang raced. He won seven consecutive Midget titles at Indianapolis Speedrome. He raced with and against Gordon , Tony Stewart and a host of others. "Just about anybody that's been down there and tried to run, maybe not in the last 10 years, but a little longer, I raced against them. Raced against them all," Lang says. Eventually, his car owner began to scale back and Lang "took a year and a half off. "I came back, ran an indoor show, won the race and then got bit (by the racing bug) again. But then we had some problems and I thought 'this is exactly why I got out before.' "I had young kids at the time, had just moved in here. I had a good run, won 76 midget races and had a lot of fun. I had ambitions just like anyone, but unfortunately didn't have the money." He had already decided to move away from the city -- he previously lived near the speedway -- when "I picked the USAC newsletter up one day," he says. "And there was an ad for this place." • • • "You have no idea how deep here it goes for us," Gordon says. "We're very proud to call Pittsboro our home. "I tell everybody it really started here in Pittsboro and I would never be where I am today if it weren't for Pittsboro, this town and what it meant to me." The two-lane road leads past the fields of corn and across the railroad tracks. Up ahead, the highway sign indicates the end of Mitchell Avenue and the start of Wall Street. A turn, out of Pittsboro, leads back to the Interstate. The name of the road is fitting -- Jeff Gordon Boulevard. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Clint Bowyer spins and Jeff Gordon crashes into the wall trying to avoid him at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 2004 Jeff Gordon claimed his fourth Brickyard 400 victory by holding off Dale Jarrett at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
No. 24 driver has won at every other Sprint Cup track RELATED: Full race lineup " Complete Kentucky preview SPARTA, Ky. -- Jeff Gordon has recorded 92 wins in his storied NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and has celebrated in Victory Lane at every track -- except one. Kentucky Speedway. "It wouldn't mean so much to me if I hadn't won on all the other ones," Gordon said with a smile on Friday after NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Kentucky. "It's the newest track that has been added on the schedule, so we haven't been able to come here for a long time. It would just mean a lot to win it." Sunday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, Sirius XM) is Gordon's final chance to seal the deal at the asphalt oval before his retirement at the end of the 2015 season. In four starts at Kentucky, the No. 24 Chevrolet has put on strong performances, pulling off four top-10 finishes. But for Gordon , close just isn't good enough in his final Kentucky foray. "It's not if we don't win that I'm going to be super disappointed," Gordon said. "I'm going to be disappointed if we finish second. To come that close, yeah, that would be a little disappointing as far as the stats go. But I would like to have a good, strong finish here and just have a shot at it." For the No. 24 team, making it to the front will be its biggest battle. Despite Gordon's solid finishes, he's yet to lead a lap around the 1.5-mile track. The zero in his "Laps Led" column puzzles the Hendrick Motorsports driver, as he has paced the field at every track for at least 182 laps, his best track being Martinsville with an impressive 3,744 laps led. "This is just a tough race track," Gordon said. "I'm not really sure. I feel like we have always run well toward the end of the race, but maybe didn't always start off as strong. Maybe it's a qualifying thing, too. We just haven't qualified up front. "Hopefully, that changes this weekend." Gordon's third-place starting position, set by opening practice times due to inclement weather, could give him the leverage he needs to make a strong run to the front. And while growing pains may come with the new rules package debuting this weekend -- which Gordon reserves most opinions about until he runs a little more -- bumpy Kentucky already causes Gordon physical pain. Perhaps it's a good pain -- it takes him back to the early days. "When I think of this track, I just think of how challenging it is and how rough it is, how much my back hurts and how much I'd like to win here because we never have," Gordon said. "I love that fact that when we came here, especially the first time, the way that racing is supported in this part of the country. "It reminded me of Indiana. I used to race in Evansville -- not to far from here -- I raced sprint cars, and it just didn't surprise me how when we come here, there's a lot of huge race fans, not just NASCAR fans, but just huge race fans, that want to see a great race and came out to support us here." That's just what Gordon will look to do on Sunday, as he climbs into his No. 24 for the last time at Kentucky: Give fans a great race. No matter the outcome, to Gordon's longtime fans, he'll always be celebrated. "When I heard the crowd applaud on race day (at Sonoma) for driver introductions, it really hit me and stuck with me, and it was cool," Gordon said. "The cheers and the support have been overwhelming everywhere we've gone. "Other than that, the only place that I think it's really going to hit me like, 'Wow, this is really happening,' is (his final race) in Homestead." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Daughter Brittany reveals a special helmet for Iowa race RELATED: Grand marshal added to Wallace's Iowa duties " Racing with nephew Matt NEWTON, Iowa -- Until Friday, Kenny Wallace 's plans to hang up his NASCAR driving helmet this weekend at Iowa Speedway were only missing one small detail -- the helmet itself. His former team kept deflecting his phone calls, telling him not to worry and that his helmet would be there for the 905th start of his long, storied NASCAR career. The smokescreen was effective -- it bought his daughter Brittany enough time to have it professionally painted with a commemorative collage of snapshots and memories from his 26 years in the sport. While Wallace's time behind the wheel in NASCAR will end with Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the sport won't be saying goodbye to one of its most charismatic characters, who will remain a presence both in TV broadcasting and at local dirt tracks. Though there will be some finality after he steps away Saturday night, Wallace said he'll do his best to keep his emotions in check along the way. "I think there's going to be moments and I hope that it happens after the race, but I've done a pretty good job at my career to really focus in on what I have to do," said Wallace, who will carry backing from the race's title sponsor on his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. "I remember when Ernie Irvan got hurt (in 1994) and I was in that Texaco/Havoline car in the Cup Series, I was shifting the gears getting on the high banks there at Bristol and I could hear the roar of the crowd, and I was like, 'No. Focus.' "I've learned a lot along the way. I've watched Jeff Gordon this year; I don't even know how he can go. I've learned a lot. I'm ready to race, and then we'll deal with everything after the race and when I get out of the car." That theory held true for about 30 minutes after his arrival at the .875-mile track, when Brittany Wallace handed over the special surprise to her father in front of a group of friends and family. Short of choking up, the 51-year-old Wallace said he had sworn he would not be emotional, but was genuinely moved by the gift. Wallace joked that he hopes to amend the helmet's graphics Saturday night, changing his nine career XFINITY wins to an even 10. But the joke belied his ever-sharper focus with top-shelf JGR equipment underneath him for this weekend's swan song. "If he's saying he's blocking it out, he's way better at doing something like that than I am," said older brother Mike Wallace , like his sibling a nine-time winner in NASCAR national competition. "He said he's happy with it, content. All I can say is more power to him. It's outstanding. I just ran into him over there and he's got his family and friends, he's the grand marshal for a (K&N Series) race tonight, he's got a suite here. He seems to be having fun right now. He said, 'I've got to go sign some hats,' and I was like, 'Go be famous. That's what you're good at.'" The nature of the family-affair weekend has even more ties. Kenny Wallace will share the track with his nephew, Matt, who is scheduled to make his second career XFINITY Series start Saturday night. His farewell race will also take place on a short track designed by oldest brother Rusty Wallace, a NASCAR Hall of Famer. The eldest Wallace ended his driving career in 2005, but like his brother, he remained active in the sport with broadcasting stints in television and radio. It's why both Wallaces have shied away from calling the occasion "retirement" with a capital R. "I wish him all the luck in the world," said Rusty Wallace, speaking Thursday at a charity event in Pennsylvania for The NASCAR Foundation and the Jeff Gordon 's Children's Foundation. "I told him the other day, do not use that word retirement. You don't need to do that. They'll label you with that. I said notice Jeff Gordon said he's quitting, but he's not retiring, but he's never going to race again. So he's kind of retiring but he's not going to use that word. He learned that from me and Mark Martin . I told Kenny, you didn't need to do that. He'll be fine." So if anyone was hoping to get rid of Kenny Wallace after this weekend, tough luck. The driver known for his boundless energy, his grace with racing fans, his social media presence, his extracurricular dirt-racing travels and his broadcasting moxie isn't going anywhere. After 900-plus starts dating back to a 1988 debut at Martinsville Speedway, driving the No. 8 ride owned by Dale Earnhardt in what is now the XFINITY Series, Wallace said simply that "there needs to be a line in the sand" for his driving career. Staying power in NASCAR can often be fleeting and rare, a fact that has made Wallace even prouder of his long run in the sport's highest levels. Wallace's helmet is anchored by the words "Life is a journey," a well-worn adage he said he always tells his three daughters. Wallace's own journey will enter its next phase after Saturday night. "My mom, Judy, she said to me, 'Kenny, hon. You keep reinventing yourself,' " Wallace said. "I'm like 'really, Mom?' It's not a plan, it's just that I want to stay in the sport. I think longevity and persistence is what I'm so proud of, because let's face it, I was never an 'A' driver. To me, I feel proud saying I was a 'B-plus' driver. I won nine XFINITY races, 177 top-10s -- I mean, that counts for something. When I should've been down and out, I stayed digging." Contributing: RJ Kraft from Pocono Raceway FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule