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Gordon Calls Parade Day in Pittsboro 'One of the Best Days of My Life'

Jeff Gordon has felt the love every week this year in the Sprint Cup Series, with fans turning out to show appreciation one more time to the four-time Cup champion who is making this season his last as a full-time driver.

But nothing compared to Thursday in Gordon’s teenage home of Pittsboro, Indiana, where an adoring small town turned out for Jeff Gordon Day.

The day included a parade down Main Street followed by a presentation at a nearby park, where Gordon spoke from the heart with a slightly cracking voice.

“I never would have accomplished what I did without the town of Pittsboro,” he said. “This, to me, has been one of the best days of my life.”

Gordon and his family moved to Pittsboro in June 1986 from California, seeking to further the young racer’s career in an area surrounded by great midget and sprint car racing. Gordon graduated from Tri-West High School in 1989, was a full-timer in the NASCAR Busch Series (now XFINITY Series) two years later and, in 1994, became the winner of the inaugural Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet won four more times at IMS after that, including last year’s Brickyard in a victory that thrilled his loyal fans.

Some of those fans lined Main Street in Pittsboro on Thursday, wearing Gordon shirts and waving homemade signs.

From in front of Big Tuck’s Feed & More, the Mason Inn and Elegance Boutique, fans watched as Tri-West’s top athletic teams passed by in the parade, followed by IMS President Doug Boles and then the guest of honor. Following Gordon was the No. 24 hauler and two fire engines, then the celebration moved to Scamahorn Park.

“This is a Hoosier welcome for Jeff Gordon, isn’t it?” Boles said on stage.

Indeed it was, as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence named Gordon a Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana’s highest civilian honor. Then Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson delighted Gordon with an honorary police badge.

Years ago, when Jeff Gordon Boulevard was named in Pittsboro, Gordon asked the chief how he could get a badge. Patterson then presented one on Thursday.

“I’m glad you’re excited – we need you to cover a shift on Monday,” she said.

Gordon put the badge on his belt and kept it there all day, and asked how far back citizens’ arrests could be made, though noting he wasn’t quite innocent in his younger days either.

Everywhere he turned, Gordon saw former teachers, friends and even some who helped in his earliest racing days in town. Jason Love, now the Town Manager in Pittsboro, once scraped the mud off Gordon’s sprint cars.

They never forgot Jeff Gordon. On Thursday, Gordon came home to show his gratitude.

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