Record updated 04-Aug-06
Gordon was NASCAR Rookie of the Year in 1993 and became the youngest winner of NASCAR's Winston Cup in 1995. He repeated his Winston Cup success in 1997, 1998, and 2001, and in 1998 also won 13 races, tying the record held by Richard Petty.
Jeffrey Michael Gordon is an American race car driver. He was born in Vallejo, California, and currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a four-time NASCAR Winston Cup (now NEXTEL Cup) Series champion and driver of the #24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. His primary sponsor is DuPont, though he occasionally drives a Pepsi-themed car. His other sponsors include Quaker State, Haas, GMAC, Georgia-Pacific, Sparkle, and Nicorette. He, along with Rick Hendrick, are the co-owners of the #48 Lowe's sponsored team, driven by Jimmie Johnson.
Jeff Gordon began racing at the age of five and according to his step-father, John Bickford, racing was Jeff's idea. It may have been his idea, but his family fully supported him. Gordon's family moved from Vallejo, California to Pittsboro, Indiana, not just for the racing opportunities in general, but especially those for younger drivers. Before the age of 18, Gordon had already won three short-track races and was awarded USAC Midget Car Racing Rookie of the Year in 1989. The next year Gordon won the USAC Midget title. In 1991, Gordon moved up to the USAC Silver Crown and at the age of 20 became the youngest driver to win the title.
Gordon then went on to spend two successful years in the NASCAR Busch Series in 1991 and 1992, driving for Bill Davis Racing (with whom he set a NASCAR record by capturing 11 poles in one season). Coincidentally, Gordon's first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race, the 1992 Hooters 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, was also the final race for Richard Petty. He went on to finish 31st, crashing after 164 laps of competiton.
In 1993, Gordon raced his first full season in the Winston Cup for Hendrick Motorsports, where he won the Rookie of the Year award and finished 14th in points. Gordon was the first "young gun", a term that would go on to describe a generation of drivers who began their careers driving for top-quality teams. Prior to Gordon's arrival in NASCAR, such teams were usually reserved for drivers who had proven themselves by racing for less successful teams. Gordon's success in the sport reshaped the paradigm and eventually gave drivers in their late teens an opportunity to compete in NASCAR. However, during the 1993 season, many doubted Gordon's ability to compete at such a level at such a young age because of his tendency to push the cars too hard and crash.
In 1994, the critics were silenced when Jeff Gordon collected his first career victory at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Coca Cola 600, NASCAR's longest and most demanding race. Additionally, Gordon scored a popular hometown victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the inaugural Brickyard 400, passing Ernie Irvan for the lead late in the race when Irvan cut down a tire. Finally, in 1995, at the age of 24, Gordon won the first of four NASCAR Winston Cup Championships. There are only two other drivers with more than four Cup titles: Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt (both had seven titles). In 2004, Gordon also became the only NASCAR driver with four Brickyard 400 victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and one of only four drivers to have four victories at the historic track. Gordon also broke the domination that Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated's #8 and #15 teams held over the restrictor plate tracks in NASCAR since 2001, establishing himself as a favorite to win on the tracks where so many teams struggle to even finish races.
Gordon is regarded as one of NASCAR's best drivers because he achieved so much at such a young age. At thirty five, midway through the 2006 Nextel Cup season, Gordon has accumulated 75 Nextel Cup victories, right behind Dale Earnhardt's mark of 76 wins and Darrell Waltrip's NASCAR-recognized Modern-Era record of 84, and is currently seventh on the all-time list. Many observers also credit Gordon with moving NASCAR from its regional southestern roots to national level of popularity, both through his media savvy and through lucrative advertizing deals that put Gordon's face, team, and brand into the public spotlight.
Fan reaction to Gordon's success has been sharply divided. Gordon remains popular in his home state of Indiana and his birth state of California, and as indicated by the success of merchandising of #24 products, outside the Deep South, but is often booed by fans in traditional NASCAR venues.
Part of this schism in popularity is attributed to Gordon's "Madison Avenue" appeal, his apparent rivalry with Dale Earnhardt during the 1990's, and the resentment in the Deep South of perceived "Yankees." NASCAR for years had been a predominantly Southern sport, and many fans today attribute NASCAR's changes, not all of which are popular, to the influence of corporate sponsorships and the media.
Rumors of Gordon's alleged homosexuality, which have not been substantiated, have been the subject of parody songs, comic web sites and blogs. In the Internet journal Slate.com, an article speaks to the rumors, which have largely been fueled by supermarket tabloid The Globe:
NASCAR star Jeff Gordon also gets drawn into the Globe's web of gayness. Gordon's recent split from his wife has reportedly "reignited inflammatory talk that the racing hunk is gay." His wife, Brooke, is said to have complained that her husband was a "cold fish" who didn't satisfy her in the bedroom. And a friend explains that "because he's good-looking and dresses well, he's an obvious target to pick on." Obvious. As if the nice clothes weren't enough, the story further explains that "Gordon's slight build and soft-spoken manner also sparked the gay gossip, not to mention that here was a clean-cut California kid kickin' butt in a Southern sport."
In his memoir, Jeff Gordon: Racing Back to the Front, the driver actually addresses the rumor, which he denies. Part of the rumor was fueled by a comment by Dale Earnhardt, Sr. intended as a joke. At the time Gordon had been dating Miss Winston, Brooke Sealy, but because Sealy worked for Winston the couple was required to keep the relationship a secret. When they finally went public with the relationship, Earnhardt, making a joke, said "Whew, I'm glad to see you've got a girlfriend. Some of us were beginning to wonder if you liked girls." Gordon's response to the rumors is both classy and diplomatic: "I'd like to think if I were gay, I would be comfortable enough to say so and get on with my life. The fact is I'm not, and I never quite understood why so many people want to believe otherwise." Gordon married Brooke Sealy in 1994. Their marriage ended in a very public and bitter divorce with a $15 million settlement in 2003.
Following the death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., in 2001, many looked to Gordon as the leader of the sport. Gordon was never critical of NASCAR as an organization and led efforts to mandate new cutting-edge safety devices such as head-and-neck restraints. Jeff Gordon the personality was maturing.
In 2003, Gordon's divorce from Brooke became tabloid fodder. Gordon distanced himself from the controversy by staying focused on the competition, winning races and contending for championships. A physical altercation with driver Mike Bliss in 2005 and a televised altercation with Matt Kenseth in 2006 have put a more hardened edge on Gordon's public image, further distancing himself from the "Boy Wonder" persona that was thrust upon him in the '90s.
Rumors also emerged that the former Mrs. Gordon was simply in it for the money. Although these rumors are unsubstantiated, they are prevalent enough that many Nascar fans view the former Mrs. Gordon in that light. In court papers Brooke Sealey (formerly Brooke Gordon) asked for "exclusive use of the couple's oceanfront home, valued at $9 million, as well as alimony, two cars and periodic use of their boats and an airplane." She also wished Jeff Gordon to continue to pay the salaries of their housekeepers, maintenance workers and chef, as well as her legal fees" during the divorce.
On June 24, 2006, Jeff announced his engagement to Ingrid Vandebosch at a croquet event at Meadowood resort in St. Helena, California. According to Gordon, they had kept the engagement secret for the past 30 days.
Gordon has also participated in some off-road events, including a winning drive with Team USA at the 2002 Race of Champions. He was slated to run it again in 2004 against Formula 1 Champion Michael Schumacher but was sidelined by the flu, and Casey Mears took his place. In 2005, Gordon competed in the Race of Champions event again, this time held in Paris, France, where he was partnered with famed motocross racer/X Games winner Travis Pastrana. Gordon was unable to qualify for the finals, as his car had trouble starting up in the quarterfinal round of the competition.
On June 11, 2003, at a special exhibition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon took laps in Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams BMW, while Montoya did laps in Gordon's Nextel Cup car. The exhibition was broadcast live by SPEED Channel, in a special called, Tradin' Paint.
On February 20, 2005 Jeff Gordon won the Daytona 500 for the third time. He previously won "The Great American Race" in 1997 and 1999. Also, Gordon won the Brickyard 400 on August of 2004, obtaining his 4th Indy win. He claimed wins at the famed raceway in 1994, 1998, and 2001.
In 2004, Gordon finished 3rd in the NEXTEL Cup points behind Kurt Busch and teammate Jimmie Johnson even though he scored the most total points throughout the whole season, a consequence of the new Chase system implemented in 2004.
Gordon started the 2005 season with a win in the Daytona 500, but inconsistency would plague him throughout the year. A late season run put him in position to qualify for the Chase, but in the last race before the Chase at Richmond, Gordon made contact with the wall and failed to qualify. Despite this disappointment, on October 23 Gordon won the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his first win in 22 points races. He went on to finish 11th in the Championship and received a $1,000,000 bonus as the top driver finishing outside the Chase. It was Gordon's first time outside the top 10 in the point standings since 1993.
On September 14, 2005 Crew Chief Robbie Loomis resigned from the #24 team. Loomis stayed on with Hendrick Motorsports as a consultant for Jimmie Johnson's #48 team through the Chase for The Nextel Cup in 2005. Steve Letarte, Gordon's car chief for most of the '05 season, replaced Loomis as crew chief effective at New Hampshire International Speedway on September 18th, 2005 and began his first full season as crew chief for Gordon in the 2006 Nextel Cup Season.
As of July 23, 2006, Jeff Gordon has 7 top 5 finishes and 9 top 10s, and currently sits tenth in points. Jeff Gordon has 6 top 5 finishes through eighteen races in the season. On June 24, 2006 Gordon became engaged to model Ingrid Vanderbosch. The following day, Gordon won his ninth road race, the Dodge/Save Mart 350, at the Infineon Raceway - his first win of the season and fifth at Infineon.
On June 29, 2006, Jeff Gordon announced that he will he participate in the Rolex 24 endurance sports car event at Daytona International Speedway, teaming up with SunTrust Racing drivers Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor, who won the 2005 Rolex 24 race.
On July 9, 2006, Jeff Gordon won his first race at the Chicagoland Speedway at the running of the USG Sheetrock 400. Controversy erupted late in the race he spun leader Matt Kenseth, a move many considered to be retaliation for Kenseth hitting and spinning his car at Bristol in March of 2006. Matt Kenseth spun Jeff Gordon at Bristol, ruining a sure top 5 finish for Jeff Gordon. Jeff Gordon finished 21st, Matt Kenseth finished 3rd. Jeff Gordon has 75 career Nextel Cup victories, just one short of tying Dale Earnhardt for the sixth most wins of all time.
Gordon has made cameo appearances starring as himself in Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Taxi, and Herbie: Fully Loaded.
He was also referred to as "J. Gordon" in the Bernie Mac/Ashton Kutcher film Guess Who. In one scene, Simon (Kutcher) tells Percy (Mac) that he once worked in Gordon's pit crew, and he also discovers Percy is a huge fan of Gordon.