Jeff Gordon: From Wonderboy to Baby Toys

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IOctober 13, 2008

There's no one like him, he truly is one of a kind. When he talks, everyone listens and it's not surprising that women want to sleep with him and men want to be him. Not just like him but be him to a tee.

And why not?

He's won nearly one-hundred races, possesses four Cup championships, has fame and money, married a supermodel, had a baby and owns and travels anywhere he wants.

Was it mentioned that he married a supermodel?

Jeff Gordon is considered one of NASCAR's ambassadors—he's smart, well spoken, well mannered and has a polished image. It's rare to hear about him in the news for negative reasons.

But when Gordon burst onto the scene full-time in 1993 he was "Wonderboy" and he and his pit crew became the "Rainbow Warriors." Gordon's car had a rainbow painted on it and many different colors throughout the scheme.

The bright colors, car and bubbling personality made him an easy target for the veterans but most often it was Dale Earnhardt who never missed an opportunity to throw a jab at the kid who had grown a mustache.

It didn't help that for a long time there was a rumor going around that he was gay, fueled by Earnhardt.

He was booed, insulted and continually picked on but there was no ignoring or denying that the man could drive a race car. He won and won a lot which didn't sit well with the fans who were watching their heroes being beat by "Wonderboy" and by a non-southern gentlemen.

"Dale Earnhardt was the intimidator but Jeff wasn't intimidated," said Gordon's step-father John Bickford. It showed too, as the two men battled for the 1995 championship and who could forget the famous milk toast in New York.

However, in the process of being the torn everyone's side, Gordon was silently learning from Earnhardt and others. While it made a great rivalry for the fans, Gordon's former crew chief Ray Evernham is convinced they did it for the merchandise sales.

On the track they tore up race cars, even in practice but off the track they became friends and soon went into business together.

By this time Gordon was married to his first wife, former Miss Winston Brooke Sealey, and had stopped using his step-father as his business manager. In doing so Gordon said it strained his family. From there Gordon and Brooke slipped into their own world by moving to Florida and hardly ever being visible in the NASCAR community.

While Gordon may not have been as accessible as other drivers wanted, it did nothing to slow him down.

From 1993 to 1999 the combination of Ray Evernham and Jeff Gordon won forty-seven races and three Cup titles. They won two Daytona 500s, the Coca-Cola 600, four consecutive Southern 500s at Darlington and two Brickyard 400s at Indianapolis.

Gordon was on top of the world, winning ten and thirteen races in a season and he had re-established a relationship with his family.

Then prior to the 1998 Daytona 500 he was named one of NASCAR's Top 50 Drivers, ranked number four.

In 1999 he and Evernham formed Gordon/Evernham Motorsports which ran six races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. But in 2000 Evernham left to own his own Dodge team so Gordon and Rick Hendrick would co-own the team, which now fields Jimmie Johnson the two-time defending Sprint Cup Champion.

He also signed a life-time contract with Hendrick Motorsports.

With Evernham gone and his contract set, it was time to focus on finding another crew chief and winning another championship. Evernham told Gordon that Robbie Loomis would be a perfect candidate.

In 2001 they proved it bringing home the championship, Gordon's fourth overall.

And it was during the 2001 season that Gordon had an eye-opening experience when Dale Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

"You realize just how precious life is and how quickly it could be taken away from you," he said. "It made me want to appreciate everyday that much more."

Gordon began to see how unhappy he was and in March of 2002 the fifteen month drama of his divorce from Brooke began, Brooke stated their marriage was " irretrievably broken as a result of the husband's marital misconduct."

A woman would later go in Playboy and say that she had an eleven month affair with Gordon.

Things got nasty and distracting when Brooke asked for: exclusive use of their 23,095-square-foot oceanfront home, alimony, the Porsche, Mercedes 600 SL, use of their boat and airplane. She also wanted Gordon to continue to pay the salaries of the housekeepers, maintenance workers and chef.

On the track Gordon's performance suffered and he didn't win a race until Bristol in August. "I'm driving the car on Sunday and on Monday I'm in a deposition or room filled with lawyers. It did affect me, definitely, in my life and on the racetrack. I'm very happy to have that from underneath me now."

A year later the divorce was finalized in a private settlement when Gordon paid an undisclosed amount, millions, to end the battle.

Now free he started to enjoy himself more and he became the first NASCAR driver to host Saturday Night Live in 2003.

In 2004 Gordon got back to putting his name in history by capturing his fourth Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis.

Things in his personal life were going well too. He started dating Ingrid Vandebosch and soon he wasn't only racing for his fifth championship but the pair were racing for the alter.

Shortly after announcing their engagement in June of 2006 in Sonoma then winning the race, the two were married in November.

The ceremony took place in Mexico, where Gordon regularly escapes to.

However, Gordon's life didn't come full circle until one year after announcing his engagement when on June 20,2007 Jeff Gordon became a father.

Ella Sofia Gordon was born in New York City, she weighed seven pounds one ounce. "To me, it's perfect timing in my life to be a father, because I want to be involved, I want to be there," he stated. "I'm excited about all the aspects of it and the challenges that come along with it."

"Life has never better for me than it is right now. I'm happy because I've got a new relationship, we're married with a baby and so that can't be any better. On the racetrack, things are going great as well."

Things on the racetrack were going well, it appeared that he would finally win his fifth championship after leading the point standings majority of the year and tied then pasted Dale Earnhardt on the all time wins list. But it was all for not as teammate Jimmie Johnson beat him when the Chase began.

This season Gordon's Chase for a championship and a win continues.

So does the Jeff Gordon legacy.

NASCAR champion and voice, superstar and media darling (from commercials to continually appearing on Live with Regis and Kelly), co-owner, driver and father.

He contributes to charity and is a life provider (he started the Jeff Gordon Foundation and opened the Jeff Gordon's Children's hospital in 2007), and he's not afraid to wear a suit and tie or appear polished on the red carpet.

He's tussled with the best of them, Earnhardt, Jarrett, Stewart and Wallace. Coming out stronger and more determined to do right and get his fans cheering.

No longer the "Baby Ruth" kid trying to be one of the guys, now he is the guy. There are no sick days just Sundays and Father's Day for Jeff Gordon. He made a pretty good living and worth of those days.

In the years that follow as Jeff Gordon finishes his career, his influence, voice and records will still remain. But have no fear—that's when the best years of Jeff Gordon's life will actually begin.

"I always say that there's Jeff Gordon race car driver and Jeff Gordon just the normal person."



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