ARLINGTON, Va. - Three-time Daytona winner Jeff Gordon broke his winless streak Feb. 12 by crossing the finish line first in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
The win qualified Gordon for the third spot in Sunday's Daytona 500.
This season, Gordon, one of the most popular NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, will be the special program driver creating awareness and support for various National Guard programs, including the Youth Challenge, Active First, College First, Path to Honor and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
"I'm pretty excited to work with Jeff this season under the Guard banner," saidDale Earnhardt, Jr., fellow Hendrick driver, who joined the National Guard NASCAR team last year.
Gordon will drive the No. 24 Dupont/National Guard Chevrolet, which will feature each of these programs on its hood during races at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 8; Texas Motor Speedway on April 5; Darlington (SC) Raceway on May 9; Michigan International Speedway on June 14; Chicagoland Speedway on July 11; Richmond (VA) International Raceway on Sept. 12; and New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 20.
Gordon recently answered questions from Guard Experience (GX) magazine about the upcoming season.
GX: What does it mean to represent the National Guard, the oldest military service in the United States?
JG: Obviously, it is a huge honor. You're able to represent and honor your country by that service, and to be able to do it on home soil as well as abroad—I think that it speaks volumes about what it means to represent the National Guard.
GX: How does teamwork play a part in the success of the No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet team?
JG: Well, obviously, to have the National Guard on board takes teamwork to a whole other level. We are a team and a unit going out there to win races and do our own type of battle on the racetrack, but then to also represent the National Guard. We represent all those men and women who are already serving in the National Guard, as well as those who may serve in the future.
GX: What is the biggest thing you would like to see happen with your association with the National Guard?
JG: I think a lot of people don't understand all the different programs that the National Guard has to offer, so I want to try to create more awareness of these programs, such as Active First, where you can earn a bonus up to $60,000 if you enlist under that option. The Guard also helps with your college tuition by paying up to 100 percent of your classroom fees. There are many other programs, but those are just to name a few.
GX: Do you personally know anyone who has served in the military?
JG: I had some friends I went to high school with that went into the military, and they came back a new person. It's amazing to me what the military can do for those seeking that path to honor that next step in their life.
GX: What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining the National Guard?
JG: I would say, "do it." I mean it's a great opportunity to serve your country. It is a very honorable thing to do, as well as all the great benefits and opportunities that come along with it.
GX: Who in your mind should be a "National Guard" Soldier?
JG: I think that anybody can be in the Guard. Men or women who have a direct path and those who are seeking a path. But I think we all are proud to be Americans, and I think all of us would like to be able to serve our country in some way and to be enlisted in the National Guard is a great way for you to serve your country and do something that you
can be very, very proud of, as well as create great opportunities for yourself in the future."
GX: What are some of your goals both on and off track for 2009 season?
JG: Our goals are pretty much always the same: We go out, we want to win races and we want to win the championship. The way we achieve those goals is we look at what we did last season, and we find ways we can be better, whether we won the championship or whether we finished seventh in points, it's always about trying to create a better team and a better environment, as well as make the cars go faster and execute as a team the best way that we possibly can. We want to be competing for race wins; we want to be competing for the championship, and I feel like we've got an incredible opportunity with the National Guard this year to go out and win another championship. I think 2009 is going to be a great year for us.
Note: Sgt. 1st Class Clint Wood, GX Magazine contributed to this report.