May 7, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT
As four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon heads for his 700th career start (all consecutive) in NASCAR’s premier series this weekend at Darlington Raceway, the venerable driver is acknowledging the milestone but not putting a lot of emphasis on it.
“I’ve been fortunate to race this long and have the type of career I’ve had,” he said. “It’s really cool to see that this will be my 700th start, but it’s not something I really paid attention to. It’s hard to believe I’ve run that many – especially consecutively.”
Through his previous 699 starts, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has evolved from an up-and-coming “Wonder Boy” to one of the sport’s most decorated veterans with his four Sprint Cups and 87 career victories. Seven of those wins, as well as 18 of his 299 Top-5 finishes have come at Darlington’s infamous egg-shaped oval.
Adding to the inherent challenge that Darlington presents is the fact that the Generation-6 machines will be visiting the track “Too Tough To Tame” for the first time this weekend. Suffice to say, Gordon has lots of other things to worry about besides hitting the 700-race mark in his career.
“The [car] will be fast and have a lot of grip,” he said. “But racing the track while working traffic will be as tough as ever.
“They repaved Darlington a few years back, so it’s not the same track it used to be 10 years ago. But it’s still one of those tracks where you have to push hard but be patient. And it’s still one of those tracks you must respect.”
Gordon is tops amongst all active drivers at Darlington in wins, Top 5s, and laps led (1,720 — 903 laps more than any other driver).