This is the Introduction
Jeff Gordon will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers in the history of the sport. And with three wins (so far) this season, the four-time champion has a legitimate chance to win his fifth after the season is all said and done at Homestead. I figure it is good a time as any to take a look back at Gordon’s championship seasons. After all, his last championship came in 2001, and we can all use a refresher course on just how great the driver of the #24 car really is.
In this first installment, we will look at his maiden championship year all the way back in 1995. Back when Bill Clinton roamed the White House in his first term, Die Hard With a Vengeance was the number one grossing movie in the Box Office, and Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was sitting on top of the Billboard charts. This all takes me back to Mr. Collin’s fifth grade class at Knox Elementary in Indiana… I don’t know about you.
OK, now that we all have time traveled back to the mid-1990s, let’s talk some racing.
Jeff Gordon made a name for himself in 1994 when he secured his first career victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If NASCAR fans were not aware of this young kid after his first win, they sure were after his second victory at the inaugural running of the Brickyard 400. In one of the most anticipated races in the history of the sport, Gordon beat the likes of veterans Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, and Geoff Bodine in winning the first NASCAR race at the most historic of tracks.
1994 found him eighth in the points when the season ended at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with Earnhardt Sr. winning his seventh (and final) Winston Cup Championship.
But how far could this kid Gordon go? After all, his owner, Rick Hendrick, had yet to win a championship coming into the ’95 season. Would he be able to dismantle the juggernaut that was Richard Childress and the #3 team? Hindsight is 20/20, so these questions may seem a bit ridiculous now, but in 1995, they were legitimate.
One more thing before we get started, 1995 saw the return of the Chevy Monte Carlo, replacing the Lumina. In the previous year, the Chevy Lumina won a total of 11 races, compared to 20 wins by Chevy’s arch-nemesis, the Ford Thunderbird. A change was needed, and the Monte Carlo, as we shall see, is the answer.