Four-time series champion has his eyes on NASCAR's most coveted prize RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota The question, broached before the season even began, hasn't gone away and maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if folks want to talk about winning the championship and potential retirement in the same breath, well, that's not all bad. Not when you're Jeff Gordon and you haven't really been in the title picture in more than a decade. There are far worse questions out there. What's wrong with your team? Why didn't you make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup? Will you be back with the team next year? Fortunately for the 43-year-old, such questions have rarely, if ever, been asked. But retirement? Yeah, it comes up from time to time. And with the Hendrick Motorsports driver back in the title picture, it makes for good copy. One of the sport's greatest drivers has chance to win title, and sail off into the sunset hoisting a fifth championship trophy. There's only one problem. Gordon isn't buying the retirement part. Or selling it, for that matter. "The majority of my focus is on winning the championship," Gordon said last week in Chicago, before this year's 10-race Chase got under way. Easing off the throttle? Not now. Not as long as his back holds out, his team continues to perform at its current level and Gordon keeps finding a way to get back to Victory Lane. "I was asked 'would you consider it?' and I said I would because I think it’'an exciting way to end a career – to go out on top," Gordon said. "But at the same time, I'm having too much fun. I'm enjoying myself too much. My back is doing well and I don't see any reason to quit anytime soon." One of the favorites in this year's championship run, Gordon admits it’s been "a long time, too long" since he won his fourth, and to date, last title. That was in 2001, 13 years ago. He turned 30 earlier that summer. No one expected the domination, which included 58 wins at that point, to slow anytime soon. But it did. That he's back in the title picture, and a legitimate contender, he said, has as much to do with those around him as the driver himself. "We haven't had a team like this since 2001," Gordon said. "In '07 we were close; '04 we were close but I don't think we ever really had this type of momentum, this kind of chemistry since we won our last championship. "And you know … that's what it takes to win the championship. Who we've been up against, they've had that. We've got that back this year and that's why I'm really excited about our chances." He's seen others go through similar circumstances. Former teammate Terry Labonte went 12 years in between winning championships in 1984 and 1996. In fact, Labonte's chief competition in his final title run was none other than Gordon. "He's one of my heroes," Gordon said. "I would love to do something similar to what Terry has done. I raced against him in that '96 season when he won that championship and his experience, his calmness, the Iceman (persona), he blew me away that year with his ability to really just stay so consistent and strong and pull off that win. "So I've got firsthand experience to see a guy that hasn’t done it in a long time get it done." Gordon has finished in the top five of the final standings on five occasions since his last championship, including the runner-up in '07. But as he noted, it's only been recently that he felt his team had the tools and the chemistry to be considered a legitimate threat. The key players from '01 are still around, although most of the support staff has scattered here and there. Steve Letarte, wrapping up a final year as crew chief with Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. , was a part of Gordon’s title-winning efforts in '97 and '98 as the team’s tire specialist. In '01, he was a mechanic as well as the team’s rear-tire carrier. Chad Knaus, who would go on to lead Jimmie Johnson to six titles, was a part of the crew that won the title in '95 and '97 as well, but had departed by the time Gordon won No. 4 in '01. Johnson, Knaus and the 48 team are seen as one of Gordon's chief opponents for this year's crown. The wait for Johnson to try and add to his championship total has been brief. Barely 10 months ago he was celebrating a sixth title. For Gordon, it's been years. "That was a long time ago," Gordon said of his '01 title run. "The only thing I remember that reminds me of this year is having confidence in myself and the team, enjoying what we are doing and knowing we have a shot at winning races each and every weekend." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
2000 Brickyard win for Bobby Labonte came with brother Terry sidelined
From his first win at Darlington Raceway in 1980 to his last 23 years later at the same track; Texas Terry Labonte has always been one of NASCAR's ironmen.
Kristy Labonte shares stories from a childhood in the infield
Terry Labonte's daughter, Kristy, explains how going to the track every week was her normal, and how odd it was to see her dad's face on products they would use.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, Terry Labonte fought to a third place finish at Phoenix in 1996 with a broken hand and went on to win his second NSCS Championship.
Get the latest Bobby Labonte news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Nationwide Series regular will drive the No. 32 car for Go FAS Racing RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Joey Gase will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Chicagoland Speedway in the MyAFibStory.com 400 on Sept. 14. Gase will drive the No. 32 Ford for Go FAS Racing. "I am very excited and thankful that Archie (St. Hilarie, team owner) and the entire team are giving me this opportunity," Gase said in a team release. "My Nationwide Series career started with Go FAS in 2011, which led to a great 20th-place finish (at Iowa). Hopefully, I can get another good finish with the team." The team currently has a couple of associate sponsors for the race, but is looking for a primary sponsor, according to the release. Gase is currently running a full Nationwide Series schedule for Jimmy Means Racing. He is 20th in the standings with a best finish this season of 11th at Talladega in May. In 66 career Nationwide Series starts, the 21-year-old Iowa native has yet to record a top-10 finish. This season, Go FAS Racing has used other six drivers in the No. 32 car. Travis Kvapil (15 starts), Terry Labonte (three starts), Blake Koch (two starts), Boris Said (two starts), Eddie MacDonald (one start) and J.J. Yeley (one start) have combined to run the first 24 races of the season. Yeley will drive the car this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway . The team's best finish this season was an 11th-place finish by Labonte in July at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule