As one of the most charismatic drivers ever to drive in NASCAR, Jeff Gordon made the series what it is today. After loyally serving Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports for 24 straight seasons, Jeff left full-time racing at the end of 2015 but continues his NASCAR career as a Fox Sports analyst.
Jeffery Michael Gordon was born in Vallejo California on August 4th, 1971, but he moved to Pittsboro, Indiana at a young age, where he had more opportunities as a young racer. In the early nineties, he tried to switch from stock car racing to Indy but had to drop the idea due to a low budget. His involvement with NASCAR was so strong that he even declined Jackie Stewart's invitation to test-drive for Formula One in Europe.
Gordon dominated NASCAR in the nineties
Although we don't know what would have happened if he had gone to Europe, we surely know that his devotion to stock car racing made him an undisputed legend. In 1990, Jeff Gordon had his test in Busch Series, and in the following two years, he drove for Bill Davis Racing winning 11th and 4th overall. His long connection with Hendrick Motorsport began in November 1992 when he test-drove a Chevrolet stock car for one race only in Winston Cup. After winning 14th and 8th in the following years, Jeff Gordon won his first Winston Cup title in 1995 with 7 wins and 17 top fives won. In his following season, Jeff had a rocky start, which ultimately cost him his title, so he finished 2nd, behind his teammate Terry Labonte. With 10 victories and 22 top fives, he won his second title in 1997 and reclaimed it in 1998 with 13 wins and 26 top fives. In 1998, Gordon also scored third in International Race of Champions, his best result out of six events he competed in.
Jeff's rainbow Monte Carlo is the most iconic car in modern NASCAR history
Winless season after 15 years
In 1999, Jeff returned to Busch series driving part-time for Gordon/Evernham the team formed by his ex-wife and Ray Evernham. In 2000, the team, now called JG Motorsports has attempted 6 more races, one of which was won by Gordon, but his commitment to Hendrick Motorsport and Winston Cup Series has brought him his fourth title in 2001. The year 2000 was also the last one for the iconic rainbow-colored 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo: from 2001 to 2010, his Chevrolet was decorated with flames.
Winless 2008 season
Afer finishing fifth, fourth and third overall in 2002, 2003 and 2004, he was eleventh and sixth in 2005 and 2006. His next big success came in 2007 when he finished second in Winston Cup Series and competed in 24 Hours of Daytona in DP class, winning 3rd while sharing the seat with Wayne Taylor, Jan Magnussen and Max Angelelli, proving himself as more than a NASCAR driver. However, in 2008, Gordon had a winless season, the first one since 1993, and he finished it seventh overall.
Jeff Gordon failed to win a single race in 2008
Brawls marked late stage of Jeff's career
With just one win, but a good performance in The Chase, Gordon won his third 3rd place finish at the end of 2009 Sprint Cup season, followed by one more winless year in 2010, when he finished ninth. In 2011, he finished the season eighth with three wins. In 2012, Gordon had good hopes of winning the championship until the penultimate race of the season where he was black-flagged for his run-ins with Clint Bowyer. The intentional crash made by Jeff escalated into a huge brawl between two crews. Gordon won the last race of the season, but that wasn't enough for the championship. In 2013, Jeff finished the season sixth. In 2014, on the 20th anniversary of his first win in NASCAR, Gordon won at Brickyard 400. In Texas, Gordon was again involved in a brawl, this time with Brad Keselowski.
Jeff had the chance of winning the 2013 NASCAR Series title
The on-track incident that led to the brawl occurred when Keselowski tried to pass Gordon and Johnson who were battling for the win in 2013 AAA Texas, the third-last race of the season. In the final laps, Keselowski cut Gordon's tire while trying to make a move, which caused Gordon to fall to 29th place after a spin, ending his hopes for the 2013 Sprint Cup title with just two races to go. In the following race at Phoenix, he was eliminated from The Chase despite finishing second, and with 10th at Homestead-Miami, Jeff was sixth overall.
Jeff's 2015 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
His last full season in NASCAR was really emotional, because, in the end, Jeff Gordon is one of NASCAR's and America's dearest sportsmen and icons. He started the season with the pole position for his last Daytona 500 of the career. Although he had two more pole positions, both of them at Talladega, Gordon failed to win the race until the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 when he earned the place in the Championship Four at Homestead. In the final race of the season, Kyle Busch won with Gordon finished sixth, dropping to third overall for the fourth time, but missing to end his amazing NASCAR career with the fifth Sprint Cup title. At the end of the season, Gordon retired with 797 starts, all of them consecutive, improving the 788-race record he beat earlier that year.
Video - All Gordon's NASCAR Sprint Cup wins
We will see and hear more from Jeff Gordon in 2016
Although Gordon didn't retire completely, one era of NASCAR has ended with his goodbye from full-season racing. However, a new era has begun, with Gordon as a full-time Fox Sports analyst for NASCAR Sprint Cup. That way, he replaced Larry McReynolds and joined Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy. While everyone will miss Jeff on the tracks, we'll all love the new Jeff in Fox Sports broadcast booth.
However, Gordon returned in the racing seat in 2016, but only as a substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr at Brickyard 400 and in a couple of more races. In January 2017 he was a member of Daytona 24 Hours winning Wayne Taylor Racing team.
After winning this race, he became only the fourth driver in the history, after Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt and Jamie McMurray, who won both Daytona 500 and Daytona 24h.