|Jeff Gordon shows off the No. 24 paint scheme designed by Sam Bass to commemorate his 20 years with DuPont.|
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
During the 2012 NASCAR Media Tour, Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports unveiled a special paint scheme commemorating the 20th season of the partnership between DuPont and the No. 24 car and driver. This ties the record held by the famous partnership between Richard Petty and STP for the No. 43 car.
Gordon started his career in the Winston Cup Series, now known as the Sprint Cup Series, in November of 1992. Coincidentally, his first race was Richard Petty’s last race. At that time Petty was the only one to have held on to a sponsor, STP, for 20 years. STP signed with Petty in 1972 and continued to sponsor Petty cars even after the King hung up his helmet.
Gordon came to the South with no experience in stock car racing. He started in sprint cars and won the 1991 USAC Silver Crown championship.
At the 2012 NASCAR Acceleration Weekend, Gordon admitted to Petty, whom he respectfully calls ‘King’, “Looking back on it now, to know that I had the opportunity – I think I’m like one of three guys who raced against you (Petty) and that makes me feel a little old. But I’m honored, you know. That day in 1992 is very special to me and one that I’ll never forget.”
Gordon’s first win was the 600 mile race at Charlotte, 1994; that same season he then won the inaugural Brickyard 400 and has won it three more times since. His career lifted off; he won four championships and 85 Cup races.
At the press conference held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame last week celebrating the 20 years Gordon has had with DuPont and Hendrick Motorsports, fellow competitor and former teammate Ricky Craven asked Gordon what he thinks of his 20 years. Gordon explained, “Knowing what Rick Hendrick and (his/this) facility was capable of was mind-blowing.”
At the time he was asked to drive for Hendrick, Gordon was 18. He had experience in open wheel, and expected to spend his life in the open wheel series. Since his family moved from California to Indiana to pursue his career, Gordon’s boyhood dreams were of winning the Indy 500, not the Brickyard 400. He never expected to cross that yard of bricks in a stock car with a rainbow on the hood.
A reporter asked if he believed being committed to one team and one sponsor for so long could be the formula for success for other drivers, Gordon said, “Yes and no, you gotta freshen it up, and you gotta create a spark from time to time. I think that’s where somebody like Rick Hendrick is so good, ya know. There is a reason why driver/crew chief combinations usually don’t last forever...it’s incredibly hard to keep that motivation, and excitement and drive, and I always give Jimmie and Chad so much credit for being together for as long as they have been and successful because I know how tough it is to do.”
Gordon went on to say, “I think for me, there’s been a lot of good coming from consistency knowing our sponsors are there. I’ve had a lifetime contract from my standpoint with Rick for a while; knowing I don’t have to go and negotiate that, it’s so nice," but he cautioned that he has to be sure he and the whole team perform as well as if they didn’t have a guaranteed ride and sponsor. To meet those expectations, he said, "I think sometimes there you have make some changes.”
As for whether he thinks his new teammate, Kasey Kahne, may need more consistency to be more successful he said, “I’m really excited for Kasey and Kenny, as well as for Hendrick Motorsports. I think that they’re a great combination, and I told Kasey this awhile back, having a Kenny as a crew chief at Hendrick with those resources is really going to pay off. I think it’s going to pay off for the rest of us, too, you know the information that we’re going to get from the combination that’s already successful." Gordon said he thinks that his new teammates’ enthusiasm and confidence in each other is, “really going to pay off in the years to come."
In addition to celebrating 20 years with DuPont, Gordon won the 2011 National Motorsports Press Association Speedway Motorsports Spirit Award for his work with children’s health issues. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. An example of Gordon’s commitment to children’s health: he visited Rwanda this off-season, the country in which the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation has focused recently. Wife Ingrid and daughter Ella accompanied him on the visit. Mr. and Mrs. Gordon used social media to share their experience on the trip with fans.
Jeff Gordon has time and time again proven that he is a champion on and off the race track.