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Jeff Gordon joins exclusive club with team's 24 Hours at Daytona victory

Jeff Gordon hugs daughter Ella Sofia after his team’s 24 Hours of Daytona victory.

Associated Press

Jeff Gordon hugs daughter Ella Sofia after his team’s 24 Hours of Daytona victory.

DAYTONA BEACH — Jeff Gordon's latest accomplishment won't take up much room in his expansive trophy case.

But it's sure to get a prime spot.

The retired NASCAR star joined an exclusive club Sunday, the fourth driver to win the 24 Hours at Daytona and the Daytona 500. Racing legends A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti and NASCAR regular Jamie McMurray are the only others to accomplish the feat.

"Not bad company," said Gordon, who has three Daytona 500 victories (1997, '99, 2005). "It was the thrill of a lifetime. I'm just so honored … to be part of this experience."

Gordon was the fourth driver for Wayne Taylor Racing in the endurance race, and although he didn't play a significant role in getting the No. 10 Cadillac to Victory Lane, he was a welcomed addition and quite possibly earned himself an open invitation to return.

"I'm so happy that we could do this for Jeff," team owner Wayne Taylor said. "And let me tell you something, he deserved winning this race. He might not have driven a lot, but when he did drive, do you know how easy it is to screw this race up? Do you know how difficult it is to stay on the same lap as the leaders, and he did that."

Gordon is a four-time NASCAR champion, a three-time Daytona 500 winner and a 93-time winner in NASCAR's top series. Throw in exhibition, all-star and qualifying races and he's one of the sport's most accomplished drivers. Now, the 45-year-old has a Rolex chronograph to put alongside all those shiny trophies.

"Can you believe it? I got him for free," Taylor said. "I made him pay for the paint on the car. Of course, he sold it to his sponsor."

Indeed, Gordon drove for free and kept a promise he made to Taylor in 2007. Gordon raced in the 24 Hours with Taylor's team a decade ago, and even though he was admittedly "pathetic," the team finished third. Gordon felt like he was unable to fully commit, so he told Taylor he would return after he retires.

Gordon was just one of several story lines to come out of the team's victory.

Teammate Ricky Taylor made a bold move late to take the lead and essentially win the race after four consecutive oh-so-close finishes. Teammate Max Angelelli retired after the race, going out on top. And Wayne Taylor got to see his two sons win one of the biggest events of their careers.

Jeff Gordon joins exclusive club with team's 24 Hours at Daytona victory 01/29/17 [Last modified: Sunday, January 29, 2017 9:15pm]
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