Born on August 4, 1971, in Vallejo, California, Jeff Gordon began competitive auto racing at age five. He notched four Series Cup championships after joining NASCAR's top circuit in 1992, his popularity helping to expand the sport's appeal to a mainstream audience. Among NASCAR's all-time leaders in victories, Gordon announced he was stepping down as a full-time driver in early 2015.
Childhood and Early Racing Career
Jeffrey Michael Gordon was born on August 4, 1971, in Vallejo, California. Parents Will and Carol divorced shortly after he was born, and Carol began dating a co-worker named John Bickford, who stoked Gordon's interest in auto racing before becoming his stepfather. Gordon began racing BMX bikes at age four, and the following year he slipped behind the wheel of a quarter midget for his first competitive driving experience. He won the national quarter-midget championship at ages eight and 10, and continued to dominate older children in go-kart events. When Gordon was 13, the family moved to Pittsboro, Indiana, so he could race powerful sprint cars without the obstacle of a minimum age requirement. After joining the United States Auto Club at 16, he won the organization's National Midget championship at 19 and its Silver Crown championship the following year.
Having taken an interest in stock cars, Gordon earned a chance to race for owner Hugh Connerty in NASCAR's Busch Grand National Series in 1990. He joined Bill Davis's team the following year, his first on the circuit full-time, and was named Rookie of the Year.
Gordon soon caught the eye of owner Rick Hendrick, who marveled at the young driver's control of his vehicle. Gordon signed with Hendrick in May 1992, and he made his Winston Cup Series debut that November in what turned out to be auto legend Richard Petty's final NASCAR race.
Named the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year in 1993, Gordon broke through with victories in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994. With crew chief Ray Evernham and his "Rainbow Warriors" helping to keep the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in top form, Gordon claimed his first series championship in 1995.
Clean-cut and polished in front of a camera, Gordon helped transform auto racing from a regional spectacle into a mainstream sport. His corporate image rubbed some of racing's old guard the wrong way, but even the critics had to acknowledge his immense skills. Gordon became the youngest driver to triumph at the Daytona 500 in 1997 and tied a modern record with 13 victories in 1998, finishing both years as the series champion. He notched a fourth championship in 2001 with new crew chief Robbie Loomis in tow, culminating an amazing stretch that produced 56 victories in seven years.
A fifth championship proved elusive, but Gordon continued to rank among NASCAR’s elite. He won his third Daytona 500 in 2005, and in 2007 he accumulated a modern-record 30 Top-10 finishes en route to a second-place finish in the standings. Stymied by back problems in 2008, the veteran driver proved more than capable of keeping up with the sport's young guns in 2014, notching a record fifth Brickyard 400 trophy among his four victories.
Despite his recent success, Gordon announced in January 2015 that the upcoming season would be his last as a full-time NASCAR driver. At the time, his 92 career victories were third most all-time, and his four championships ranked fourth.
The famed driver launched the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation in 1999 to help fund pediatric cancer research. In 2006, he opened the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital in Concord, North Carolina.
Previously married to Brooke Sealey, a former Miss Winston, Gordon married Belgian model Ingrid Vandebosch in 2006. They have two children, Ella and Leo.
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