There is no questioning Jeff Gordon's greatness, when a season in which he wins three times and scores 22 top-10s is looked at with a wrinkled nose as something "sub-par."
But Jeff Gordon is looking at 2001 as an opportunity to have a potential breakout year with crew chief Robbie Loomis and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports DuPont Chevrolet crew. Gordon's fortunes, so long tuned to master mechanic and crew chief Ray Evernham, had seemingly dropped since Evernham left in September 1999 to begin forming his own Winston Cup team.
After picking up Loomis from Petty Enterprises in the off-season, Jeff Gordon had an unsettling early part of the season in 2000. After 15 races he had fallen to an uncharacteristic 10th in the standings.
Jeff Gordon ended up with three wins, his lowest total since 1994 but which boosted his career total to 52; 11 top-5 and 22 top-10 finishes. He added three Bud Pole Awards. Gordon's qualifying performance remained superb, as he failed to qualify in the first round only five times all season.
Gordon, who earned his first career series victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May 1994 and won the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in August 1994, is in his 10th year with Hendrick Motorsports in 2001. Gordon is teamed with drivers Terry Labonte and Jerry Nadeau in a three-team effort.
Despite his age, there is no denying Gordon can easily be labeled a veteran when it comes to racing. Born in Vallejo, Calif., but raised in Pittsboro, Ind., Gordon began his racing career at age 5. By age 20, with numerous victories and achievements, he was named, for the second straight year, to the 1991 All-American Team by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, joining such notables as Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, Michael Andretti and Gordon's racing hero, Rick Mears.
Before his successes, Jeff Gordon logged more than 600 victories in 15 years of driving in open-wheeled competition. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Gordon won three national Quarter-Midget championships and four national karting championships. He became USAC's youngest-ever driver when he was granted his race driver's license for that circuit on his 16th birthday. In four different USAC divisions in more than four years, he recorded 22 victories, 21 fast times, 55 top-5s and 66 top-10s in just 93 starts.
In 1990, at 19, Gordon won the USAC Midget Series national championship, becoming the youngest driver ever to win that title. He followed that in 1991 by capturing the USAC Silver Crown Division national championship.
Hendrick, a keen judge of racing excellence, was so impressed with the talents and unlimited potential of the young racing phenom, that he signed Gordon in early May 1992 to a Winston Cup Series contract for the 1993 season. Jeff Gordon has since become an equity owner of his race team.
Jeff Gordon is married to a former Miss Winston, Brooke Sealy.
`He is one of NASCAR's most active drivers in terms of charitable causes. He won the True Value Man of the Year Award in 1996 for his work with the Leukemia Society and was the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Illustrated Person of the Year, along with Darrell Waltrip. Jeff Gordon works closely with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Hendrick Bone Marrow Foundation and recently formed the Jeff Gordon Foundation.