Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will mark a milestone in Jeff Gordon’s racing career. It’ll be Gordon’s 750th start at the Cup level. It’s fitting that such a milestone come at AMS, as the track played host to then-Winston Cup start number one. That race was the last race of the 1992 Cup season. As the Gordon era of NASCAR racing was being ushered in, the Richard Petty era was coming to a close. Gordon’s first race at the Cup level was also Petty’s last as a driver.
Not only will Sunday’s race be Gordon’s 750th start, overall, at NASCAR’s top-level, it’ll also mark 750-consecutive starts for the driver, as he’s never missed a race since that first event at Atlanta nearly 22 years ago. As a frame of reference, the next highest consecutive-race streak among active drivers is that of Matt Kenseth at 526 races, according to NASCAR.com. The all-time record streak of consecutive start is held by Ricky Rudd at 788. With 11 races to go in 2014 after Sunday night’s race, Gordon is on course to break Rudd’s record in 2015.
Gordon was asked about the milestone on Friday. Here’s what he had to say:
TALK ABOUT YOUR 750 STARTS:
“That is a big number. I hadn’t thought about it a whole lot until I saw a decal with it made up. I thought ‘man that is a lot of races, especially in a row’. Really proud of that, it’s been an amazing career in the Cup Series. It seems like it was yesterday that it started right here over 20 years ago. I love this track. I love racing here so it’s pretty cool to have 750 happening here.”
WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR LONGEVITY TO?
“My strong back (laughs). No I got very fortunate that I got a very young start as well as I got a chance to start with one of the best teams and team owners out there with Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick. It’s funny I did a thing this week with Kasey Kahne for Valvoline and we were talking about our start and how we got to the Cup Series and our path there. So we were reminiscing a little bit about some key moments that got us here. While he didn’t start as young as I did when he did start it was a pretty quick path. For me, when I moved to Indiana and started racing sprint cars and midgets and things like that it’s amazing how quick things happened. It seemed like one year I was graduating from high school and a year later I was going to drive a Nationwide car. A year later I was getting offers to go Cup racing and then two years later I was in the Cup Series. Two years after that I was winning my first Cup championship. All I can contribute it to is just a lot of good things happening at the right moments, meeting the right people and getting here at a young age. Then good genes too. I’ve taken so big hits. Some that could have taken me out of contention to stop that streak. Yet, either the schedule worked out or my body healed itself or whatever happened. Here we are at 750. At the time I didn’t really think about that, but now I look back on it and it’s something I’m proud of.”
Here’s a graphic (courtesy of NASCAR) that lists some of Gordon’s milestones, including Altanta Motor Speedway milestones: