This weekend marks an important race in the history of one four-time Sprint Cup Series Champion as Jeff Gordon will make his 750th career start this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It marks a fitting spot to mark the career highlight as Gordon made his first career start at Atlanta in 1992.
““That is a big number. I hadn’t thought about it a whole lot until I saw a decal with it made up,” Gordon commented. “I thought ‘man that is a lot of races, especially in a row’. Really proud of that, it’s been an amazing career in the Cup Series. It seems like it was yesterday that it started right here over 20 years ago. I love this track. I love racing here so it’s pretty cool to have 750 happening here.”
Gordon attributes his longivity in the sport to landing his feet in the right spot at the start of his career with Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports.
“For me, when I moved to Indiana and started racing sprint cars and midgets and things like that it’s amazing how quick things happened,” Gordon said reflecting back. “It seemed like one year I was graduating from high school and a year later I was going to drive a Nationwide car. A year later I was getting offers to go Cup racing and then two years later I was in the Cup Series. Two years after that I was winning my first Cup championship. All I can contribute it to is just a lot of good things happening at the right moments, meeting the right people and getting here at a young age.
“Then good genes too. I’ve taken so big hits. Some that could have taken me out of contention to stop that streak. Yet, either the schedule worked out or my body healed itself or whatever happened. Here we are at 750. At the time I didn’t really think about that, but now I look back on it and it’s something I’m proud of.”
There have been plenty of highlights and lowlights through the years. From his big wrecks at Las Vegas, Pocono and Watkin’s Glen – to 91 career victories including five Brickyard 400s and four Daytona 500s, to four championships and 314 career top-five finishes.
“If I had to pick one great moment, it would be the inaugural Brickyard 400 if I had to pick one,” he commented. “This last one ranked right up there with it because Ingrid and the kids were there kissing the bricks. We didn’t do that in 1994. I guess if I had to pick one because I think my life changed forever after that 1994 Brickyard 400. Billboards, commercials, a trip to Disneyworld, going to the race track and being excelled at after that; it changed my life in great ways. I guess I’d have to pick that one.”
This year he has been adding to those numbers as he currently leads the points standings with three wins, eight top-fives and 16 top-10s.
“Well we started the season out really strong running really well,” Gordon said. “I think of California the third or fourth race of the season where we were super strong with what I thought was the best car on the track and a shot to win that race. It was a great battle between Jimmie (Johnson) and myself. I felt like at that moment we were on to something. That has continued and even gotten better. I feel like we were on to something and then we progressed down a path where we actually made things better. Then we went to Kansas and won at Kansas and I think that was sort of that moment where we were thinking alright we have fast race cars and we can win races. Last year when we had fast race cars we didn’t really close very well. This year we are closing really well whether it’s restarts, whether it’s just the race cars themselves. Some of it is qualifying we have been qualifying a lot better lately as well. It’s just a lot of great effort from the team that started way back before this season started.”
Gordon is hoping for a good run this weekend after posting a 16th place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend.
“No I think the best way to sum up Bristol was that the No. 24 team had a little bit of an off night,” he said. “Sometimes you are going to have that. That is the way I looked at it. We weren’t that strong when they dropped the green flag. I thought our race runs in practice were better than our qualifying runs so I was a little surprised we qualified as good as we did. I expected us to be even better in the race. We just weren’t right from the beginning. Even though I took the lead I felt like I took the lead I felt like I took the lead because Kevin (Harvick) got kind of stuck in traffic. Then Kyle (Busch) got by me right away. We needed to make some adjustments. It didn’t help having the damage from the No. 41 because then we had to change four tires we didn’t want to change four tires we wanted to only change two. Then we lost track position. Our car was off a little bit and we lost track position and then I missed the pit stall. I over shot the pit stall one pit stop. From that point on our night was pretty much over. We just never could really rebound.”
Atlanta could be the perfect rebound spot has five wins, two poles, 16 top fives, 26 top tens, while leading 1,297 laps with an finishing position of 11.8. He also posted a solid qualifying effort, qualifying ninth for the race on Sunday night.