Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments of Jeff Gordon's Career

Jerry Bonkowski@@jerrybonkowskiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2015

Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments of Jeff Gordon's Career

0 of 10

    Darryl Graham/Associated Press

    With a 23-year career in NASCAR, it’s hard to pick out 10 moments in Jeff Gordon’s career that stand out above the others.

    We could probably do Gordon's 50 most memorable moments—and still have a lot more left over in terms of what he’s achieved in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.

    We looked at Gordon’s career both on and off the race track and came up with what we feel is a wide cross section that capsulizes his career in the best way possible.

    If there were moments we didn’t include, feel free to add your own most memorable moments in the comments section.

10. Pepsi Max Commercial (2013)

1 of 10

    This became a wildly popular Internet sensation, a “commercial” where Gordon—with a fake goatee—takes a supposedly unsuspecting used car salesman for the ride of his life.

    Gordon would reprise the wild ride the following year when he took for a ride yet another unsuspecting individual—this time, a real writer from Jalopnik.com, who had no clue who was behind the wheel.

    In that commercial, Gordon—again in disguise—played the role of an ex-con cabbie who gets into a police chase.

    We have just one word for both of those commercials: priceless.

9. Hosts 'Saturday Night Live' (2003)

2 of 10

    Viewers saw a side of Gordon that they’d never seen before when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 2003.

    Gordon stole the show, if not the entire SNL season, with his depiction of the way-cool Ricky Funk, a mullet-wearing, karate-kicking character.

    To this day, fans still come up to Gordon and tell him how much they loved that segment.

    Maybe in retirement, he can reprise the role of a more mature Ricky Funk, 13 years later.

8. Wrecks Clint Bowyer at Phoenix (2012)

3 of 10

    Gordon and Clint Bowyer had been engaged in a running feud all season long. It finally hit its high point at Phoenix in the second-to-last race of the 2012 season.

    Bowyer had made contact with Gordon a few laps earlier, and that appeared to make Gordon uncharacteristically snap. He held back until Bowyer caught up with him in the closing laps and then pile-drove him into the wall.

    In doing so, Gordon all but eliminated Bowyer’s remaining hope of potentially winning the championship.

    Ironically, they raced each other clean the following week in the season finale at Homestead and finished one-two, with Gordon winning.

7. Wins His 76th Race at Phoenix (2007), Tying Dale Earnhardt

4 of 10

    Gordon had a long rivalry with Dale Earnhardt. But unbeknown to most, it was a friendly rivalry, not the archrival “he hates me” deal many thought.

    When Gordon won the spring 2007 race at Phoenix, it was his 76th career Sprint Cup triumph, tying him with Earnhardt on NASCAR’s all-time wins list.

    In one of the classiest moves ever seen in the sport, Gordon celebrated the win by doing a victory lap with a No. 3 flag sticking out of his car.

    He would then go on to pass Earnhardt’s mark the following week with a win at Talladega.

6. Brawl with Brad Keselowski at Texas (2014)

5 of 10

    This was a classic battle, one of the biggest brawls the sport has ever seen.

    After yet another racing incident on-track, this time with Brad Keselowski ramming Gordon’s car and cutting down a tire that caused him to spin and suffer a disappointing finish, Gordon came onto pit road after the race looking for revenge.

    Kevin Harvick, who would go on to win the championship two weeks later, pretty much started the scrap by pushing Keselowski toward Gordon to get it on.

    At that point, all hell broke loose, with members of both teams, as well as those from other affiliated teams within Penske Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, piling into the fray. It also led to a not-safe-for-work live interview on ESPN, in which Gordon said:

    He's just a dip----. The way he races, I don't know how he ever won a championship, and I'm just sick and tired of him. That's why everybody's fighting him and running him down. Your emotions are high. That was a huge race for us. We had the car. We had the position. So proud of my team, and I'm proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting that little you-know-what win that race. Oh my God.

5. Winning a Record-Breaking Fifth Brickyard 400 (2014)

6 of 10

    While many people thought Jimmie Johnson was a shoo-in to win a fifth Brickyard 400 crown, which would snap a tie between him and Gordon, it actually wound up the other way around.

    Gordon had a dominant car and raced on to his record fifth Brickyard victory.

    With his final season coming up, you can bet that Gordon will be looking to add to his highlight reel with yet another Brickyard win.

4. Winning His First Career Cup Race (1994)

7 of 10

    In Gordon’s 42nd start of his Sprint Cup career, he finally reached Victory Lane for the first of what would be 92 times to date.

    Gordon won the pole and then endured to win NASCAR’s longest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600.

    It was a close finish against future NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, but Gordon held on to take the checkered flag, leading a total of just 16 laps in the 400-lap event.

3. Winning His First Brickyard 400 (1994)

8 of 10

    You couldn’t have written a better script for this one.

    Gordon, a hometown boy raised in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana, won the first-ever NASCAR race held at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    It was a place he had visited many times as a kid growing up. And finally, on August 6, 1994, he realized his lifelong dream of winning at Indianapolis.

    Gordon dominated the 200-lap event, leading 93 laps and getting the better of his closest challengers, including runner-up Brett Bodine and four future NASCAR Hall of Famers in Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.

2. Winning His First Sprint Cup Championship (1995)

9 of 10

    In 1995, in only his third full-time season on the then-Winston Cup circuit, Gordon went on a tear, winning seven races en route to his first of what would be four eventual Cup championships.

    But 1995 was just a warm-up year for Gordon. He went on to win 10 races in 1996 (he finished second in the final standings), 10 more in 1997 (capped off by championship No. 2) and the most ever in a single season for him, 13, in 1998 (winning championship No. 3).

    Gordon would add one more championship in 2001, but it would be somewhat of a bittersweet accomplishment, as he emerged on top at the end of a season that began with the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in the season-opening Daytona 500.

1. Winning His First Daytona 500 (1997)

10 of 10

    By the time the 1997 season opened, Gordon had one championship (1995), one runner-up finish (1996) and 19 victories.

    But no victory before or after that would compare with his first victory in the Great American Race—otherwise known as the Daytona 500—in 1997.

    By winning NASCAR’s Super Bowl, Gordon finally earned the sport’s biggest achievement. For many, it doesn’t matter how many championships you’ve won. Your career is not complete without a win at Daytona.

    The late Dale Earnhardt is a perfect example of that: He won a record-tying seven Cup championships, but he needed 20 tries before he won the sport’s biggest race in 1998 for the first—and sadly, the only—time in his career.

    Gordon would go on to win two other Daytona 500s in 1999 and 2005. It sure would be a heck of a way to kick off his final Sprint Cup season if he won next month’s season-opening 500.

    Follow me @JerryBonkowski