HAMPTON, Ga. -- Slogans like "The Drive for Five" are on the back burner for Jeff Gordon. For now, he and his team are just focused on the next race.
The four-time NASCAR champion is off to one of the best starts of his career, with three straight top-10 finishes.
"Our team is very solid," Gordon said as his crew prepared his No. 24 Chevrolet for today's Kobalt Tools 500 on Atlanta's 1.5-mile oval. "I feel like we've made a lot of ground from a year ago.
"We knew last year was going to be a tough building year for us, and now we're starting to really see the benefits of that."
In one of the lowest moments of his illustrious career, Gordon failed to qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship in 2005. He said that was a wake-up call.
"We knew at that point that we had to reassess everything we were doing, everything we were using, the whole team," he said.
Steve Letarte, a longtime employee at Hendrick Motorsports, took over as crew chief for Gordon in the last 10 races of 2005 and the chemistry was instant. Gordon's team built momentum with four top-10 finishes in the last five races that season.
Last year, Gordon won two races, made the Chase, and finished sixth in the points. Meanwhile, teammate Jimmie Johnson, whose car Gordon co-owns with Rick Hendrick, won the Cup title.
"If Jimmie or any team at Hendrick Motorsports does well like they did last year, it only motivates the rest of us, and I think that we knew it was going to take time," Gordon said.
"These first three races have gone extremely well."