It was a year ago at Pocono that Jeff Gordon earned his first win of the 2012 season. The victory helped the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team realize a spot in the Chase, which was hard earned in Richmond in September.
Although the end of the race was rain delayed, Gordon was nonetheless excited and relieved to have picked up the win.
I was fortunate to be at Pocono covering the Pennsylvania 400 on that storm-ridden day. Gordon, surrounded by his family, savored the rain-drenched pomp and circumstance of the makeshift victory lane.
He and crew chief Alan Gustafson took their time in the media center, answering each and every question thoughtfully. They were gracious, happy and in no rush to beat it out the door.
I asked Gordon what it was like to get this particular win – his 86th – compared to others in his career.
Gordon was ecstatic that his family was present for the win.
“Today was an amazing victory experience, probably one of the best in my career because with the rain, the lightning, wind blowing sideways, everything going on, you know, I was just so excited to be able to have my family here,” he said. “ It’s the first time I’ve had all of them here for a victory. I didn’t care if it was under the shed or in the garage. I didn’t care where it was.
“That experience to me today means so much more than anything else. And we talk about it. You know, we have these race wins that you come up short, the family’s there. My wife said, ‘I so badly wanted to experience that.’
“Even my wife, she’s not been able to experience all those wins, those multiple‑win seasons and stuff. I want her to be able to feel what it’s like. I know how much it means to her.
“Ella is getting to the age where it’s exciting. Leo was able to hold up his finger, ‘No.1,’ that was cool. But today was a great day for that reason in itself, not to mention all the others.
“And it’s Alan’s birthday. He has his family here. This is a cool day. This is one that I’m not going to forget.”
In his forties, Gordon’s perspective has changed from the boy who raced 20 years ago. Winning is still important, but not the utmost.
It’s clear Gordon is not ready to retire, but family is the priority. Making the Chase and winning races still make the “short list,” but being with his family is what makes Gordon tick.
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers descend on Pocono Raceway, it will be interesting to see how Gordon runs.
Being the defending race winner – and having a total of six wins at the track – means the odds are good for another victory for Gordon.
Gordon is a driver you can never count out at Pocono.