My how time flies! It seems it was just yesterday I was introducing my sons to Jeff Gordon at Lakeside Speedway. Actually it was September 13, 1991. Jeff had just competed in the USAC Sprint Car races and the boys, then 9 and 7, wanted to meet the driver they had seen on Thursday Night Thunder. This was also the night the FAA determined we should evacuate the Kansas City International Air Traffic Control Tower due to asbestos in the air. Therefore, this night has always had a special meaning to me.
To the pits we hustled after the races to meet this young driver. He was cordial and already looked up to by children everywhere. He willingly signed autographs and I believe we may still have those autographs cards in a tote in the basement. An autograph card I am sure the boys want in the scrapbooks Diana, my wife, is preparing for them.
Because of his youth and his numerous years of racing as a child he changed the sport forever. The very next year, 1992, he was racing in the NASCAR ranks. Since that day the sport became youth driven. Parents everywhere wanted their child to be the next Jeff Gordon. To this day parents continue to start their children younger and younger in racing, most tracks now accept 12 year old racers in competition.
Of course we all know the history since the year we first met Jeff Gordon. His tutelage from Dale Earnhardt to rival of the master. His marriage and subsequent divorce from Brooke. His family with Ingrid. His numerous wins in Cup racing. Still a favorite of children of everywhere. His sponsor Dupont and the rainbow colors. His owner Rick Hendrick. All this is history.
As I write this today he can be one of the few to go out on top. The current NASCAR Championship system allows him the opportunity to end his career as Champion. I don’t know how many will be watching but I know most will be rooting for him one last time, as will I. For years we have seen things happen in NASCAR that makes us scratch our heads and provides great fodder for those who believe NASCAR is fixed, but today what a ride it would be, what a celebration if Jeff Gordon could win the 2015 NASCAR Cup Championship!
As former comedian Bob Hope would say, “Jeff Thanks for the Memories”.