Known as the "Boy Wonder" when he entered NASCAR in 1993, Jeff Gordon has dealt with both the good and the bad with a champion's mentality. Now in his 17th season could we say Jeff Gordon is the best NASCAR personality not from the south?
Born in Vallejo, California Jeff started racing at an early age. Most of his major notoriety, before NASCAR, came from his days in the USAC series. When he made the jump from the Nationwide Series to the Sprint Cup Series Jeff was looked at as an outsider. Boyish good looks, that mustache, and the fact he was a California guy made a lot of people uneasy about him.
Starting in 1993 Jeff Gordon has been a force to be considered for title contention every year. Jeff's first year was his lowest finishing season with a 14th place finish in the championship standings. Since then he has won 4 Championships and been in the top 5 at the end of the year 10 times as a driver. He has amassed 82 NASCAR wins, 75 pole positions, 263 top 5's, and 359 top 10's during his career with only 81 DNF's.
Many people began to hate Jeff as he became a major contender to Dale Earnhardt Sr. He was the young evil driver who was here to dethrone a southern legend. So whether he wanted it or not he became, in the fans eyes, the hated rival to all things NASCAR and all things southern.
In 1995 Jeff won his first NASCAR championship with 7 wins, 17 top 5's, and 23 top 10's. As impressive as it was for him to win in his third year, this was by far only the tip of the iceberg. For the next three years it could be said that he was the most dominating force in NASCAR. In '96 he finished second in the points with 10 wins. Getting edged out by team mate Terry Labonte who only had 2 wins that year, I think that was when Jeff realized that consistently was just as valuable as winning. The next two years seemed to be a vendetta as he won 10 races and the championship in '97 and an unheard of 13 wins and the championship in '98.
From 1999 until this year Jeff has added one more championship in 2001 and always been in consideration for the title. Also during this time he brought in a young driver named Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has since followed Gordon's lead and has become the most dominate force in NASCAR since Jeff Gordon. While both drivers work under the Hendrick Motorsports team, Jeff Gordon is the car owner of the 48 Lowes machine. So if you count owner and driver championships together Jeff Gordon is about to achieve his 8th NASCAR championship with his protege never finishing worse than fifth in the points standings.
While Jeff isnt the most decorated driver or owner in NASCAR he is a great personality. He has won it all and lost it all throughout his career while staying true to the sport. Bringing new fans from corners of the states that hadnt been reached before. With the rate he is going at he might just become the greatest personality of all time.
From the beginning of his career to the present day Jeff Gordon, while loved by some but hated by many has become the BEST personality in NASCAR not from the south. Winning multiple championships and bringing great talent and new fans to the sport of NASCAR has only cemented Jeff Gordon as one of the legends of NASCAR.