By Keith Waltz
Jeff Gordon couldn’t hold back the tears after scoring his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29, 1994, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
It was a milestone moment for the sport as Gordon, a former open-wheel star making his 43rd premier series start, claimed an emotional, exhausting and exhilarating win.
“This is a memory and feeling I’ll never forget. If I never win another race, I’m going to be happy with myself,” said the 22-year-old Gordon. “It was quite an accomplishment for a number of people. Ray (Evernham) has done such a wonderful job putting good guys together. He is the greatest crew chief out there.”
And it was Evernham’s daring call to take only right-side tires on the final pit stop that propelled the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet to victory.
“I didn’t know until I came down pit road. I heard him say on the radio, ‘two tires, two tires,’” Gordon said. “I just drive the car. I don’t make those decisions, and I’m glad I have Ray to do that.”
Gordon took the lead for the final time when Ricky Ruddy pitted on lap 392 and he beat Rusty Wallace, who led 187 of the 400 laps, to the checkered flag by 3.91 seconds.
It was the first of 93 victories for Gordon, who also claimed four series championships.