If Jeff Gordon wins Sunday's Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, it will not be his first trip to Victory Lane at the Joliet track. But it will be for 516 others.
The Drive To End Hunger "Ride with Jeff Gordon" promotion allowed fans who donated $124 to have their name appear on the No. 24 Chevrolet SS's hood during this weekend's race. In a perfect world, Gordon's name would be the 517th to cross under the checkered flag.
"My name is above the door, so all those on the hood will cross the line first," said Gordon. "I want to thank all those that participated in this cool program.
"I hope we're all celebrating Sunday afternoon."
Gordon, whose lone win here occurred in 2006, also has one pole (2004), six top-fives and seven top-10's in 12 starts at the 1.5-mile track. Last year, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was running in the top five before a stuck throttle and contact with the wall ended his strong run.
"We've had some good runs here recently, but this is the first time we will have raced the new Chevy SS here," said Gordon. "We're learning more and more about the car each and every week, and I think we have made gains in our intermediate track program as the season has progressed.
"We're hoping to take another big step forward this weekend."
Last weekend in Richmond, the No. 24 team came up short in their bid to secure Gordon one of the 12 "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" berths. How will this affect how the team races in the final 10 events of the season?
"We battled hard all race and all weekend long at Richmond, but we came up a few points short," said Gordon. "But the effort and never quit attitude is what I love about this race team. We're going to continue with that attitude through each of the final 10 races.
"We haven't had the year this team is capable of, and that's where our focus will be. We're going into these next 10 races trying to step it up, be more competitive and hopefully get a win or two."
A win this weekend would be No. 88 for Gordon. And the first for 516.