Jeff Gordon scoffs at being called a “retired” driver. The four-time NASCAR champion will be quick to tell you he merely stepped away from full time NASCAR competition at the end of the 2016 season.
That was demonstrated in 2016, the first season out of full time competition. After a stint as an analyst for Fox Sports, Gordon returned for eight NASCAR Cup races this past season as a substitute driver for his former teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was recovering from a concussion.
Earnhardt will return to NASCAR starting in 2017, and Gordon will return to the TV booth, but prior to that Gordon has some unfinished business.
Gordon was at Daytona International Speedway Tuesday testing a new Cadillac DPi in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s headlining Prototype class ahead of the series season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
Gordon, a three time Daytona 500 champion, will co-drive the No. 10 Cadillac with Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli. It will be Gordon’s second appearance in the Rolex 24. In 2007 he co-drove a Pontiac Riley with Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen to a third-place finish.
“I had so much fun the first time I did this,” Gordon said. “And at this point of my life and career [winning the Rolex 24] would be huge. When I came here in 2007 I was just kind of along for the ride.
“When you really realize how important this race is, is on race day when you see the hype and buildup and then the challenges you face over 24 hours. That’s what makes this race so thrilling. I’d be very proud [if we won].”
The DPi (Daytona Prototype international) entries are new to the WeatherTech Championship this year. Four DPi cars highlight a solid turnout of 29 cars across Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes this week.
The No. 10 Cadillac had some telemetry issues initially on Tuesday, delaying its on-track debut at DIS. In the afternoon it was able to make some short runs on the 3.56-mile DIS road course. Gordon’s stint in the car resulted in one of the fastest laps of the day.
“I anticipated being comfortable here because I’ve run here before [in a sports car],” Gordon said.
This week’s test is the second of three preseason sessions for the Rolex 24, IMSA’s season-opening event. The first test was Nov. 15-16. The final test will be the annual “Roar Before the Rolex 24” on Jan. 6-8.