Jeff Gordon BiographyHe was already driving at age 4 1/2 and had won his first Quarter Midget Championship by age 8. At age 9 he was competing with and beating drivers twice his age. Obviously, this kid, Jeff Gordon, had a future in racing. Born in Vallejo, California, on August 4, 1971, Jeff's interest in racing was recognized and encouraged by his family, especially his stepfather John Bickford. Realizing he needed some stiffer competition, the family moved out of California where there were age restrictions. They settled first in Florida, then in Pittsboro, Indiana where there were plenty of race tracks and fewer age restrictions.
"I think what makes a great race car driver is a smart race car driver, somebody that knows how to really think fast and has those instincts." ~ Jeff Gordon
At age 16, Gordon became the youngest driver to ever get a license with the U.S. Auto Club (USAC). He won 3 sprint car track championships before he was old enough to get a state driver's license. In 1989, he was named USAC Midget Rookie of the Year. By the time he graduated high school he had already amassed over 100 victories.
"I think our sport is what it is today because of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty." ~ Jeff Gordon
In 1990, Jeff ran in 21 USAC Midget Car races. He qualified fastest 10 times, won nine times, and at age 19 became the youngest ever Midget Class champion. He moved up in class and at age 20 became the youngest ever champion of the USAC Silver Crown Division. John Bickford then suggested that he attend the Buck Baker driving school in Rockingham, North Carolina. ESPN taped Jeff's experience at the school and in return he was allowed to attend for free. From the moment he made his first lap in a stock car, he knew he was destined to become a NASCAR driver.
"I mean, as a race car driver, I don't think what makes a good race car driver is a fearless person. I think it's somebody that is comfortable being behind the wheel of something that's somewhat out of control." ~ Jeff Gordon
Moving up in class again, in 1991 Jeff began driving the #1 Carolina Ford for owner Bill Davis in the Busch Grand National competition. He took Rookie of the Year honors. Team sponsorship changed to Baby Ruth in 1992. Jeff earned a NASCAR record 11 poles that year. His driving prowess came to the attention of Winston Cup car owner Rick Hendrick. He wanted to sign the kid, whatever it took. Recognizing the opportunity, Jeff jumped at the chance to sign with an established NASCAR organization.
"I want to win. That's what I love about racing. I've felt what it is like to win, and I strive for it every weekend." ~ Jeff Gordon
In 1993 driving for Hendrick Motorsports Jeff won NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year honors. His first win came the following year at Charlotte in the Coca Cola 600. Also in 1994, he won the inaugural Brickyard 400 which is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 1995, he earned seven victories, eight poles, and won his first Winston Cup championship. Since then, he's distinguished himself among the NASCAR elite. He has 3 Daytona 500s to his credit and at age 30 became only the third 4-time NEXTEL (Winston) Cup Series Champion (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001).
2005 was a disappointing season for Gordon. His crew chief Robbie Loomis stepped down after Gordon missed the Chase and was replaced by Steve Letarte for the final 10 races. The change seemed to revitalize the team as Gordon had five top-10 finishes in the last seven races and finished first at Martinsville, second at Atlanta and third at Phoenix. The team is looking forward to 2006.
The defending champion started the 2006 season with a 28th place finish in the Daytona 500. During the race he suffered a collision with Tony Stewart, a flat tire, and he lost third gear. Despite it all, he managed to work his way back to 10th place with 14 laps to go but another collision, this one with Kurt Busch, forced him to pit for repairs. "I'm proud of the fight we put up," he said. "In turn two (with Tony), I think both of us deserve some credit for that. My car was too tight, I thought I was going to clear him. He kept his nose in there, I feel like he could have given me some more room. But, whatever, it was bad for both of us. We fought back from that, were running in the top-10, and I was like 'we're going to salvage something decent from here.' Then (Kurt) turned sideways right in front of us. We had some good saves out there, but unfortunately when we lost 3rd gear we just couldn't get going on the restarts."
Jeff did rebound, though, and managed to put together a solid 2006 season. He captured 14 top fives, 18 top tens, 2 poles and 2 victories on his way to qualifying for the Chase. Part owner of cup winner Jimmie Johnson's 48, he was pleased with the final outcome as well as his own performance. (Ace's Bio-Farm)
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