Friday, Jeff Gordon took the stage and was enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The 47-year-old delivered an emotional 10 minute speech. For Gordon, it was the culmination of a dream of reaching the top of stock car racing.
“Well hopefully down the road I can be a top Winston Cup driver. I want to be up there with Dale Earnhardt, Kenny Schrader, Darrell Waltrip. I would like to be one of them That’s my ultimate goal,” Gordon said in a 1990 interview on ESPN. “Sure it’s great to be the young kid when he was coming up. Pretty soon I’m going to be old and they won’t be able to call me that, so I gotta do something.”
I think it’s safe to say that Gordon has definitely done something over the 29 years since he recorded that interview with Dave DeSpain.
Four championships and 93 victories in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series have left an indelible legacy for Gordon on the race track. However, nothing Gordon accomplished over the years compared to the feeling of that first championship chase.
“There’s nothing that compares to winning the first of anything in racing,” Gordon said in his speech. “It’s even harder to do it for a guy like Rick Hendrick with the amount of success that he’s had. And even though we accomplished a lot, what I’m most proud of in my career is being forever connected to Rick [Hendrick], Ray [Evernham] and everyone on that 24 team in 1995 when we went out and won our first Cup Series Championship together.”
Gordon would pepper in his words of appreciation throughout his acceptance speech. Among those who got a nod included his mother and step father, Hendrick, Evernham, Bill Davis, Chevrolet, Axalta and of course the race fans — who were raucous during the speech.
“There’s no amount of time that would be enough to thank everyone whose helped me get to this stage tonight,” Gordon said humbly.
After closing out his full-time driving career at the end of 2016, Gordon has taken on an expansive behind the scenes role at Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon will undoubtedly have a huge role in the future of the organization.
Gordon has also done an incredible job of bringing the sport to the fans with his work at Fox Sports as a commentator for races alongside Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip.
Sure, Gordon is an all-time legend of the sport. But his continually growing legacy is so much more than driving cars around in circles for a living.
Gordon and Ingrid Vandebosch have built an incredible family together. You can feel the love in the air when Gordon speaks about his lovely wife and two beautiful children Leo Benjamin and Ella Sofia, who helped Rick Hendrick deliver the Hall of Fame ring Friday night.
In addition to his family, Gordon has also given so much back to the world in the form of charity. The Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation has raised over $16-million to help children fight cancer.
What would the 19-year-old Gordon from that 1990 interview think if he could see how far the older, wiser version of himself has come? In the words of Leo Bejamin Gordon, “Daaaaang that’s cool.”
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Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.