Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is like every elite athlete in every pro sport.
Give him a challenge and he is bound and determined to not only meet it but exceed it.
Take the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway this Saturday.
Gordon already is leading the Sprint Cup championship points race this season going into the race, but needs only one victory to tie the legendary Cale Yarborough in series victories.
Yarborough currently sits fifth on the NASCAR career win list at 83, with Gordon at 82.
A win Saturday also would put Gordon just two checkered flags away from tying Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third.
An added incentive for the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is that he shares with Yarborough the record for most wins, five, at the 1.3-mile Darlington oval they call "the track too tough to tame."
Yarborough will be at Darlington driving the race pace car, in honour of the South Carolina track's 60th year hosting NASCAR events.
Gordon, who always has been a keen student of NASCAR history, appreciates what Yarborough's contribution has been to stock car racing. However, that doesn't mean he will let off in his quest to top the 70-year-old Yarborough's win totals.
"I was able to spend some time with Cale a few years back at an event at the track," Gordon said this week. "It was neat to hear him tell stories about racing here during (his) era."
One thing Gordon appreciates as well, is that at Darlington it's still as much about racing the track as it is about racing 42 other cars when the green flag drops.
"The cars have changed (since Yarborough's day), the speeds have changed and the asphalt has changed, but I don't believe the driver's thinking has changed one bit," he said. "You race the track here, not the other competitors."
And Gordon, in a tip of his hat to Yarborough and others who have gone before him as superstars in NASCAR, said it is this season than matters to him and he will have lots of time after he, too, is retired, to relish the records he established.
"It's cool to be mentioned in the same sentence as guys like Cale, Bobby and Darrell, and it's something I'll look back on at the end of my career," Gordon said. "But we arrive at the race track each weekend focused on trying to win, not on catching or passing people on a list.
"Our real motivation is winning the championship, and we hope we can win races as we work toward that goal."
Back to school
Canada's only Formula One world champion -- Jacques Villeneuve -- is following in the tire tracks of the likes of Gordon and Richard Petty by opening a driving school for aspiring racers.
The Jacques Villeneuve Driving Academy will use the new ICAR racing complex at the former Mirabel airport north of Montreal for its home base.
"Setting up my own, high-performance driving school is a great opportunity to give back to racing," Villeneuve said in a release."I chose ICAR because of its ultramodern infrastructures and because their vision and their values perfectly aligned with my own.
"Along with ICAR, my goal is to transmit my passion for racing and to increase the quality of experience for all the racing fans from around the world, whether they are beginners or experienced professionals."
According to Villeneuve his school will not be catering exclusively to the rich and famous who want to try driving purpose-built race cars at 180 m.p.h.just for the thrill.
"(The school) will offer a wide range of programs and packages for all budgets, from novice race driving to advanced high-performance driving courses as well as advanced defensive driving 'Roadsafe' programs," Villeneuve said.
Quote of the week
"When you diamond-cut a track, it's like running on razor blades. When a track ages, it's like running on rusty razor blades, and that's ugly." -- Kurt Busch, on the pavement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Alex Tagliani will attempt to make the grid at the Indianapolis 500 this month making him the latest in a long line of Canadians to race at the Brickyard including Paul Tracy, Patrick Carpentier, Scott Goodyear, Claude Bourbonnais, Ludwig Heimrath, Jr., the two Jacques Villeneuves (uncle and nephew) and Marty Roth. Of course the only Canadian to win the Indy 500 was Jacques Villeneuve the nephew in 1995.
Carl Edwards believes that charity begins at home. The driver of the No. 99 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford is involved in a program that encourages fans to grow extra fruit and vegetables in their back yards and donate them to local food banks. It doesn't hurt that one of Edwards' sponsors is Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, that sells fertilizer.
Tracy, who took part in a refresher course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week, apparently hadn't really forgotten how to go fast at the 2.5 mile oval. Tracy stopped the clock at 223.089 m.p.h in just his sixth lap on his first day on the track in the No. 15 KV Racing Technology Dallara, for the fastest lap of the day ... BMW Sauber F-1 boss Mario Theissen said this week the team's version of the double-decker diffuser -- the technology that has propelled Brawn GP and Red Bull to the top of the world championship -- will not be ready in time for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.