Childhood & Early Life
Jeff Gordon was born in Vallejo, California and was only five years old, when he first performed laps in a makeshift racetrack. His passion for speed and ‘racing’ can be largely attributed to the swift, BMX Bicycle and the Quarter Midget race car bought for him by his step-father.
By the time he was 8, he won his first Quarter Midget Championship and by the early 80s, he won four class championships in Go-Karting. On weekdays, he would attend school and on weekends, he would participate in Quarter Midget Championships around the US.
By the age of 13, he took an interest to sprint cars and his parents, as supportive as they were, shifted from Vallejo to Pittsboro, Indiana, where the young Gordon could pursue his ‘racing’ dream. Before he turned 18, he had already won short-track races and was awarded the USAC Midget Car Racing Rookie of the Year Award in 1989.
By the age of 20, he became the youngest driver in America to win the USAC Silver Crown and to win the season championship. This followed with a couple of more wins and he finished in the Top 3 in 22 out of 40 midget car events.
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In 1990, he met Hugh Connerty, who was the co-owner of Hooters restaurants, who helped him participate in the first Busch Race on October 20, 1990 in a stock car. He finished 39th in the race.
In 1991 and 1992, he participated in the Busch Series and drove Ford Thunderbirds, with which he won the Rookie of the Year. The following year, he set a NASCAR record and made his Winston Cup debut.
He began driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet during the 1993 Winston Cup season and subsequently won a Daytona 500 qualifier. Due to the fact that he was one of the youngest participants, many doubted if he would be able to compete in the NASCAR, but he defied all odds and won his first victory at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the longest race in the NASCAR circuit. He finished eighth overall in the 1994 Winston Cup season.
In 1995, he saw his first NASCAR Winston Cup win by defeating 7-time champion, Dale Earnhardt. He won the season with eight poles and seven victories and a streak of four consecutive wins in the Daytona Southern 500 event.
Although 1996 took off to a rocky start, Gordon made a comeback and went on to win ten races. He and his race team, achieved wins at a number of places around America and this initiated a three-year period of winning double-digit races.
He won his first Daytona 500 in 1997 and became the youngest driver in history to have bagged the title. The same year, he won the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte and won the prestigious, ‘Winston Million’. He finished the season with 10 stunning victories and he set a record in 1998, winning the Winston Cup for the third time in a row.
In 1999, he established the Gordon/Evernham Motorsports with his crew chief, Evernham. The team was sponsored by Pepsi for a short while and enjoyed great successes. Later, the race team was renamed to JG Motorsports.
Gordon won his 50th career victory at the Talladega spring event in 2000. He then went on to win at Sears Point Raceway and Richmond and finished 9th in the season overall.
From 2002 to 2009, Gordon witnessed a series of highs and lows in his racing career. The year 2002 kick-started with Gordon finishing ninth in the Daytona 500 event, but went on to win the Sharpie 500 night race at Bristol.
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The following year, he won the Brickyard 400 and became the only NASCAR driver to have four Brickyard wins. He then went on to win the Daytona 500 in 2005 and won races at the Chicago Speedway and the 2007 Food City 500.
In 2008 and 2009, he won the Texas Motor Speedway Championship and later at the prestigious ‘Samsung 500’ he achieved his 82nd career victory.
From 2010 to 2013, he was a runner-up in the Subway Fresh Fit 600 and won his 70th pole at the 2011 Aaron’s 499. In 2012, the season took off to a rocky start, but he soon moved up the race track in the 2012 Toyota/Save Mart 350, where he achieved a milestone by completing 23,000 laps.
His 2013 season started with a crash at the Sprint Unlimited, but he managed to qualify second for the Daytona 500 and led the first 31 laps of the series. At the Bojangles’ Southern 500, he finished 3rd, marking his 300th top-5 career finish. However, the red flag was waved when he was involved in a crash with two other race track drivers, Mark Martin and Aric.
Apart from racing, Jeff Gordon partook in a number of off-track events such as ‘Race of the Champions’ and IROC at the Daytona International Speedway.
Awards & Achievements
In 1991, he was presented the Busch Series ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. In 1993, he won the Winston Cup Series ‘Rookie of the Year’.
In 1998, he was named of ‘NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers’.
He was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, in 2009.
He was awarded the illustrious, Silver Buffalo Award in 2009.
He was even presented with the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
Personal Life & Legacy
He met his wife, Brooke Sealey after a Busch race and they got married in 1994. However, in 2002, Sealey filed for divorce after alleging Gordon of marital misconduct.
Apart from his racing career, he established the Jeff Gordon’s Children Foundation to support children suffering from life-threatening diseases.
Gordon was introduced to Ingrid Vandebosch and the duo announced their engagement in 2006. They got married in 2006 and their first child, Ella, was born on June 20, 2007. They had their second child, a boy, on August 9, 2010.
He has been the subject of a number of television series’ and songs and has been referred to in a South Park episode, in the film, ‘Couples Retreat’ and also in the song ‘E.I.’ by Nelly.
He is also currently the cover of the video game, ‘Jeff Gordon XS Racing’ and ‘NASCAR Thunder 2002’.