News & Multimedia

Brickyard Super Weekend Profile: Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon wasn’t the first USAC short-track star to pursue a career in stock cars instead of Indy cars.

But he was the symbolic trailblazer who broke the mold in the early 1990s, and since then, USAC midgets and sprint cars have become the accepted path to NASCAR – which is no surprise, actually, given the fact that modern Indy cars have little in common with USAC cars other than four wheels and a steering wheel.

Gordon was born and raised in northern California, but with his mother and stepfather John Bickford, he moved to Pittsboro, Indiana when he was a teenager to be closer to the center of the USAC scene. Pittsboro and  greater Indianapolis have long claimed Gordon as one of their own, despite the fact that he lived in Indiana for just a few years during the developmental phase of his racing career. Gordon won the USAC midget title in 1990 and the sprint car crown a year later, becoming the youngest ever series champion at age 20.

Gordon and Bickford visited the CART-sanctioned Indy car race at Cleveland in 1990 and were told that they needed to bring their own  sponsorship or funding to get Jeff into the CART series. They turned their focus to NASCAR, running the Busch (now Nationwide) Series for Bill Davis Racing. Gordon was Rookie of the Year in 1991 and he set a record by nabbing 11 pole positions in 1992.

That led Gordon to where he remains today, 20 years later: a Sprint Cup driver for Hendrick Motorsports. He was the Cup Series’ Rookie of the Year in 1993 and scored his first Cup race win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A far more significant victory came a couple of months later when, in fairytale fashion, Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon’s victory was significant on a number of levels; as an adopted hometown boy, the win was extremely popular in Indianapolis, and it no doubt contributed to the city of Indianapolis’ transition to a “NASCAR town” in the 1990s while Indy car racing was at the start of a decade-long battle for control of the sport.

Nicknamed “Wonder Boy” by the late Dale Earnhardt, Gordon claimed his first NASCAR Cup championship in 1995 after a season long battle with Earnhardt. Gordon improved on his seven-win 1995 season a year later, taking ten victories, but he lost out in the championship to Dale Jarrett. However, Gordon started 1997 by winning the Daytona 500 and went on to his second Cup crown.

His most successful campaign came in 1998, when Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham teamed to win 13 races, a modern era NASCAR record, and a third championship. Gordon’s fourth and most recent Cup title came in 2001 with Robbie Loomis as crew chief.

Although success has come more sporadically for Gordon and the #24 team, he still ranks as one of NASCAR’s most feared competitors. He retains a great reverence for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he is one of just a few drivers who have scored four race wins at IMS, adding Brickyard 400 victories in 1998, 2001 and 2004. He also won the Daytona 500 in 1997 and ’99.

Gordon formed a new NASCAR cup team in 2004 in conjunction with Hendrick. The #48 team with driver Jimmie Johnson has dominated the last six years of NASCAR competition, while Gordon has sometimes struggled. The switch to the “Chase” playoff format has not worked in Gordon’s favor and he has finished higher than sixth in the standings only twice. He is enduring a difficult 2012 campaign and looks unlikely to qualify for the Chase for the first time in his career.

Gordon’s 10-year marriage to former Miss Winston Brooke Sealey became tabloid fodder, but he is happily settled these days in Manhattan with former swimsuit model Ingrid Vandebosch and their two children.

Even though the Daytona 500 is the biggest race on the NASCAR schedule, Gordon still ranks the Brickyard 400 as his personal Number One.

“For anybody that grew up in Indiana and went to the Indianapolis 500 as many times as I did as a kid, the Brickyard kind of outweighs [Daytona] from a personal standpoint,” he said.

“When I finally got the chance to drive down the front straightaway, it was like, ‘Whoa!!’ And then to win the inaugural race? Unbelievable. But I don’t think what I’ve done should ever be compared to what A.J. Foyt or Al Unser or Rick Mears did here with their four Indianapolis 500 victories, and I don’t think Michael Schumacher’s five [Formula 1] wins should be compared either.

“They are all completely different disciplines — sometimes on a completely different track.”

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Brickyard Super Weekend Profile: Jeff Gordon
 
Brickyard Super Weekend Profile: Jeff Gordon
Even though the Daytona 500 is the biggest race on the NASCAR schedule, Gordon still ranks the Brickyard 400 as his personal Number One.
Read More
Related Media
Cassadee Pope
 
Chart-Topping Country Star Cassadee Pope to Sing National Anthem at the Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard
ward-winning country music artist Cassadee Pope will sing the national anthem at Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard.
Read More
Jimmie Johnson
 
Brickyard Hopefully The Elixir for Struggling Hendrick Motorsports
That’s what happens when an entire four-car team synonymous with NASCAR success sputters in an improbable slump. Owner Rick Hendrick’s four cars have failed to finish in the top 10 in the past three races entering Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard.
Read More
Tony Stewart & Jeff Gordon
 
Gordon, Stewart Tussling One Last Time Together at Brickyard
Stewart, 45, is a great many things. Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion. Winner of 49 series races including the 2005 and 2007 Brickyards. A Columbus, Indiana, native proud of his Hoosier heritage. And no driver is more passionate about Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
Matt Kenseth
 
Always-Contending Kenseth Still Looking for Brickyard Breakthrough
When reviewing Matt Kenseth’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series accomplishments, he’s celebrated a championship in 2003, won the Daytona 500 twice and his 38 career victories include wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.
Read More
Kyle Busch
 
More Downforce, Less Drag Hopefully a Recipe for Racier 400
An aerodynamic package with more downforce and less drag than last year was used during last week’s testing in preparation for Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 2,281
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact Laura Wyamn at (317) 492-8557 or email at lwyman@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
@KellieAlcozer it'll remind you of all the awesome memories you made this #Brickyard400 weekend!
about 4 minutes ago