By Ben White
Since arriving in NASCAR’s premier series 23 years ago, four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon has made an indelible mark as one of the most notable drivers in the sport’s 65-year history.
Here’s a look back at several key moments in the racing legend’s incredible career:
- After a very successful career in quarter-midgets, midgets and sprint cars, Gordon’s NASCAR career begins in what is now known as the XFINITY Series for team owner Hugh Connerty before winning races in that series for Bill Davis Racing in 1991 and 1992.
- Gordon joins Hendrick Motorsports and competes in his first Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Nov. 15, 1992. He goes to the garage on lap 164 of 328 following a single-car crash.
- He earns the 1993 Rookie of the Year title in the Cup Series after posting seven top-five finishes and claiming his first pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The strong chemistry between Gordon and crew chief Ray Evernham makes the No. 24 Chevrolet a serious threat to win each week.
- After a hard-fought battle of talent and endurance, Gordon collects his first Cup Series victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 1994. The win propels the native of Vallejo, California, to an eighth-place finish in the series standings.
- Gordon wins the inaugural Brickyard 400 on Aug. 6, 1994, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The longtime Indiana resident becomes a popular rising NASCAR star as he gains a huge fan following.
- Gordon wins his first Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) championship in 1995 after collecting seven wins and eight poles. At age 24, he is the second-youngest champion behind 1950 titlist Bill Rexford.
- After a 1997 season that included 10 wins and seven poles, Gordon claims his second Cup Series championship and second title for Hendrick Motorsports since the team’s formation in 1984.
- Recognized as the best season of his 23-year career, Gordon posts 13 victories and earns seven pole positions in 1998. He is named to the list of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers during the sanctioning body’s 50th anniversary celebration.
- Gordon earns a fourth Cup Series title in 2001 with six victories and begins a 14-year period of strong title runs. He amasses six top-five and 13 top-10s finishes in the premier series point standings during that run.
- On July 24, 2014, Gordon races to his fifth Brickyard 400 victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He leads 40 of 160 laps, including the final 17 over Kyle Busch.
- On Feb. 20, 2005, Gordon wins his third Daytona 500 in a green-white-checkered finish over Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. after leading 29 laps. It was his 70th of 93-career Sprint Cup Series Cup victories.
- During the 2007 Cup Series season, Gordon wins at Phoenix, Darlington, Pocono, Charlotte and twice at Talladega to score the most number of wins since his seven-win season in 1999. He also equaled his second-place finish in points from 1996.
- Gordon scores a huge victory at Martinsville Speedway on Nov. 1, 2015, and becomes one of four drivers eligible to compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his final career start.