Jeff Gordon Biography

Jeff Gordon, left, celebrates his second Winston Cup championship after the 1997 NAPA 500 race in Atlanta, Georgia. The same year the 25-year-old Gordon became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, the premier event in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) circuit.

Jeff Gordon, born in 1971, American professional automobile racer, the winner of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) championship in 1995, 1997, 1998, and 2001. During the 1997 automobile racing season the 25-year-old Gordon became the youngest driver to capture the Daytona 500, NASCARís premier event.

Born in Vallejo, California, Jeff Gordon began racing small-engine vehicles at age 5. Encouraged by his stepfather, an automobile parts manufacturer, Gordon began racing faster, open-wheeled sprint cars when he was 13 years old. One year later, he and his family moved to Pittsboro, Indiana, so Gordon could begin racing sprint cars on a professional level.

In 1991 Gordon first raced NASCAR vehicles capable of lap speeds averaging 240 km/h (150 mph). That year he was named rookie of the year in NASCARís slower-division Busch Series. Two years later he entered the upper-division circuit, the Winston Cup Series (now known as the Nextel Cup Series). At 23, Gordon became the youngest driver ever to win the qualifying race for the Daytona 500, held in Daytona Beach, Florida. He was later named 1993 Winston Cup rookie of the year for the upper division. Gordonís first Winston Cup race victory came in 1994 at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A year later Gordon claimed the Winston Cup season championship, winning seven races and placing in the top ten on 16 occasions. Gordon took second in the series behind Terry Labonte in 1996, but he had a spectacular racing season during 1997. He won 10 Winston Cup races and was a top-ten finisher in 13 others. Gordonís win at the Daytona 500 that year showed his exceptional racing ability. After a flat tire had dropped him to the 31st position, he battled back to the head of the pack. Gordon then narrowly escaped an accident among the frontrunners in the final laps and went on to win the race.

Gordon followed up his 1997 season with victories in 13 races in 1998, capturing his third Winston Cup championship. He won the Daytona 500 again in 1999. In 2001 Gordon won six races and claimed the Winston Cup for the fourth time, trailing only Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty on the all-time NASCAR title list. Earnhardt and Petty each won the championship seven times.

From 2002 to 2004 Gordon finished in the top five in the annual standings each year but failed to capture the title. In February 2005 he won his third Daytona 500, taking the lead in the last few laps and then holding on in a dramatic finish.

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