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Jeffrey Michael Gordon... A Legend In the Making

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IJuly 18, 2009

Greatness….Dominance…Dynasty… these are three of the most powerful words, which can be used to describe the career of one of NASCAR’s most influential drivers of our modern era.

Every 10 to 20 years, a driver will step up to the challenge that takes him beyond the normal realm of just being labeled as, “One of the guys.”

And it’s usually that same driver who defies the odds, even though at times his back may be against the wall.

Jeff Gordon has been through many fierce battles, along with defeating the “perfect storm,” that has desperately tried to keep a black cloud over his, “Hall of fame” bound racing career.

Every evil twist that any driver has ever been a part of, has been put in the path of this California born native.

But instead of going with the flow, Gordon took the initiative and chose a different path, a path that has taken him into a world that is set aside for the chosen ones who go beyond the call of duty.

Gordon was willing to take that extra step of faith knowing that the rewards are a lot sweeter. Jeff also knows that the work he must put in is also a lot more demanding then that of his fellow driver.

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Words alone cannot describe the amount of respect that he has earned throughout his very lucrative racing career, and to say that he is anything less is absolutely ludicrous.

The world of NASCAR racing as we know it today has a very rich history, especially  when looking back to the drivers who have already traveled the road to greatness.

The time and work that it consists of is very pain staking, and at times can get very frustrating because you never know if and when all that hard work will ever pay off.

There are no guarantees in any sport, and there is always that element of surprise that can strike at anytime, leaving you scratching your head asking the all too familiar question.

"Why me? What happened, I did everything that I was supposed to.”

The journey that Jeff Gordon has chosen, has taken more than its toll on his 17 year Sprint cup career.

Gordon has not only overcome just about every obstacle that has been thrown at him, but he has also overcome the odds, and the jealousy that usually follows a driver once they go beyond the accomplishments that other drivers will never reach.

On April 5, 2009, Gordon was able to reach deep down into his many year’s of experience, and defeat a demon that has been his adversary since it first opened back in 1996.

Gordon fed off of his many years of disappointment to defeat the demon that brought him many sleepless nights.

Jeff never once looked back at the track that had him enraptured in its tight grip.

To watch him carve his way around Texas Motor Speedway was pure poetry in motion, and his keen sense of perception is unmatched by any of our modern day drivers.

Perception is something that a driver isn’t just born with, but its also a sense that must constantly worked on.

“Well, I think that if you’re in this sport long enough, whether you’ve had success or not, you know, and if you have, you’re going to go through ups and downs, and we’ve had from some of the best seasons in history of this sport, you know, some tough, tough moments. I can’t say we’ve had some of the toughest seasons. For us we were measured against our success,” said Gordon.

Texas Motor Speedway, along with Homestead-Miami, are the only two tracks that Gordon had failed reaching victory lane at.

The baggage that he brought with him was heavy enough, without adding the 47 race winless streak that had followed him around since 2007.

Gordon was determined to overlook the past, and to get things rolling again while feeding off of the determination.

Gordon has been able to once again step up to the challenge, and put all of the nay-sayers back to sleep.

Gordon is once again having a very productive season with one win, and 10 top fives to go along with his 13 top 10's. Gordon is also leading his HMS teammates while sitting second in the point standings through 19 races.

What exactly is it that sets Gordon apart from all the other drivers who came up through his era?

And is there any set criteria for what NASCAR would constitute as a legend? Maybe these four categories could give us the fan, a better understanding of the impact that Gordon has had on the sport so far.

GREATNESS

Jeff’s greatness can easily be measured while looking back at all of his past accomplishments.

Just his four championships alone put him in this elite class, without adding in his 82 race wins, 349 top tens, 67 poles, or his three Daytona 500 wins.

Gordon has always showed an ample of amount of greatness throughout his 16 year cup series career.

So what exactly is it that sets a driver apart from just being a driver, to going beyond the veil where only the greats get to hang out in?

Just look back at what he has accomplished, and also the impact that he has had on the series since he first came up back in 1992.

Greatness can also measured by the amount of enthusiasm that a driver can carry through all the hardship, and the shortcomings that usually follow him after racing in the series for many years.

“It feels like the very first time I’ve ever won. It’s been a long streak. It’s been a lot of ups and downs and tough times, not only here at Texas but just over the past. And the whole year has just been like that since Daytona. I just see a different look in the guys’ eyes. You see a different effort that’s being put out.”

DOMINANCE

It’s the explosiveness that Gordon shows, anytime he straps himself behind the wheel of his infamous, No. 24 DuPont sponsored Chevy racing machine.

Gordon has taken NASCAR to a different level; by the way he has managed to single handedly take NASCAR by storm.

Gordon has shown how an everyday, run of the mill California boy can come into a sport that was dominated by the good old boys from down south, and basically dominate every aspect of their beloved sport.

Gordon brought with him a style of racing, that hadn’t ever been seen in the early or modern day era of the sport.

Gordon was truly, a one-of-a-kind racer when he first entered the Winston cup series.

Gordon has always been able to pick apart his competition very methodically, and at the same time keep the patience and composure that it took to compete, and win races in this very highly competitive sport.

Throughout the years, they have showed how good pit strategy, fuel mileage, and most of all, continuity plays a big part in dominating a sport that is not so easily dominated.

“Well, I think that if you’re in this sport long enough, whether you’ve had success or not, you know, and if you have, you’re going to go through ups and downs, and we’ve had from some of the best seasons in history of this sport, you know, some tough, tough moments.”

Dominance is when a driver can enter the NASCAR world, and continue to put the fear of himself in those drivers around him.

DYNASTY

When you put the words greatness and dominance together….dynasty is the finished product.

Dynasty is the highest level that can be achieved in any sport, and this is the bar that all the great drivers before him have set.

Words cannot explain the impact that Jeff Gordon has had on the sport, since he first entered into the hallowed race tracks around this great country that we live in.

Rick Hendrick seen something special in this driver, and he took a chance that Jeff would become a champion someday, probably never realizing that Gordon would still continue to build on the dynasty that was started 17 years ago.

Now he along with Rick Hendrick, are able to reap the fruits of all the hard work that went into putting this team together.

“For us we were measured against our success."

"But when you have the high expectations that this team has and you go through what we’ve gone through with all the wins, and then when you don’t win and you have to hear it each and every day."

"Every weekend we would hear, when are you going to win."

"We know we have the resources, we know we have a great team."

"And we all, individually, in that team know that we can do it.”

A dynasty cannot be measured in one to two, or even five to 10 years, but instead it will always stand the test of time. And time right now for Jeff Gordon, is of the essence.

FINISHED PRODUCT

There is no other driver in the garage today, which comes close to the accomplishments that Gordon has already garnered.

When you look back to a career that is continuing to stand the test of time, how can you as a fan not take to heart what Jeff Gordon has endured, while racing against some of the great drivers from the past, as well as the present.

Jeff has been the epitome of what NASCAR could call the true ambassador of the sport in this day and age.

Putting him in the same class as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt Sr, Bobby Allison, Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip, Alan Kulwicki, and the few others who were not mentioned is not a very hard task.

Jeff Gordon continues to show the young guns that with age, comes a lot of experience.

And with all the changes that NASCAR has been through, he is still a driver that can win on any given weekend.

Will Jeff Gordon ever win 200 races, or will he reach the seven championship milestone?

Probably not, but what he has done is raced his way into the hearts of millions of fans around this great country of ours, and that’s what makes Jeff Gordon who he is today.

I'm Out.

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