Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tribute to Jeff Gordon

Tomorrow, Jeff Gordon will make his presumably final Cup start. I am not happy about this at all. Jeff has always been one of my favorite drivers, and in fact the first lap I ever saw was the first lap he ever led- the first of many! I discovered NASCAR at Christmas 1992, when my uncle gave me a big box of Racing Champions diecasts. I was 8 years old at the time, by a matter of 2 months. It changed my life for sure, and while it's not as enjoyable to me as it once was, it still takes up a large portion of my life. (I say presumably because most drivers miss it too much and come back after they try to retire)

Jeff came into the sport when NASCAR cards were just hitting their stride, and as such, he has more cards issued than any other person in the sport's history. He also has the most cards in my collection. Not just my NASCAR collection, overall, which is quite a feat as my NBA collection outweighs my NASCAR collection by more than 50,000 cards. Part of that speaks to the way Press Pass did things for many years- a 50 card set would usually have 5 or more cards of Jeff in it- I think 2002 Eclipse had 10 cards of Jeff in a 50 card set. While they blundered through their exclusive license with NASCAR between 2001-2015 it padded Jeff's card numbers (and a few others they chose to favor) which greatly contributes to that. Even so, he holds position #1, and probably will for a long time, with NASCAR cards temporarily dormant and 8 of the top 10 players in my NBA collection retired, the two still active trail Jeff by several hundred cards, and it's fully expected that one is going to retire at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season.

Considering that there are lots more cards of Jeff available than I have, I could keep adding cards of him for years to come, even if there is never another produced (I hope that isn't the case though)

My records show 969 cards of Jeff in my collection, but the numbers aren't totally accurate, as I've gotten some more that I have not typed into my Excel chart yet (I'm months behind), and that also does not include the cards issued with diecast cars (I count them as a separate collection) and that also doesn't count cards he shares with other people. And, of course, there is also the high probability that I've miscounted over the years.

As of this writing, Jeff has won 93 Cup races (3rd all-time), 4 Championships (4th all-time), 81 poles (3rd all-time), 797 career races (9th all-time, they were all consecutive, 1st all-time. Jeff has never missed a race!) He's led 24,920 laps, and finished on the lead lap an impressive 580 times. He's also earned over 150 million dollars, not even counting endorsement deals (1st all-time). He is also tied for most wins in a season in the modern era- 13. He won double digit races three consecutive seasons, which in the modern era is almost impossible to do in any season by any driver- you can count all 10 or more win seasons in the modern era on your fingers...from all drivers combined. Jeff also won races at all but one of the tracks he raced on, the only one he did not win at was only added to the schedule in 2011.

Jeff has one race left to go, and he's still very much in contention for the 2015 title. With the current points system, whichever of the 4 drivers still eligible that finishes higher at the Ford 400 at Homestead is the Champion, and Jeff is one of those 4...and one of only two of those drivers who have won at the track before.

And now...please enjoy a gallery of one card from every year of Jeff's Cup career!
1993 Finish Line #110

1994 Traks #86

1995 Action Packed Stars #62

1996 Upper Deck #22

1997 Upper Deck Victory Circle Championship Reflections '96 #CR2

1998 Action

1999 Premium #0

2000 VIP Explosive #X12

2001 Premium Gold #6

2002 Eclipse #1

2003 Premium In the Zone #IZ3

2004 Eclipse Under Cover #UCD4

2005 Legends Blue #28B

2006 Legends Printing Plate #35, one of the best cards I ever pulled from a pack

2007 Press Pass #9

2008 Speedway #5

2009 Press Pass Pocket Portraits Target #PPT2

2010 Premium #6

2011 Premium #61

2012 Total Memorabilia #10

2013 Ignite #12

2014 Press Pass #13

2015 Press Pass Burning Rubber 

 Jeff Gordon has driven his entire Cup career for Hendrick Motorsports in the #24 Chevrolet, one of the longest driver-team-sponsor combinations in history. DuPont Automotive Finishes began sponsoring him for his first race, and remained his primary sponsor until the conclusion of 2010. AARP's Drive to End Hunger has been the primary sponsor since then, with DuPont remaining as a part time sponsor. Recently, DuPont was sold and renamed Axalta. For 2015 3M also became a major sponsor. Pepsi has been a major associate sponsor and the main sponsor for one or two races a year (at least) since 2001.

The original rainbow paint scheme is the iconic Jeff Gordon scheme. It was used from the final race of 1992 (his first race) through 2000.
1993 Press Pass #26

1996 Pinnacle Pole Position #40
The blue flame scheme debuted in 2001, and was the primary scheme for 2001-2008.
2006 Press Pass Top 25 Drivers & Cars #C14
The black flame scheme debuted in 2009 and has remained the DuPont scheme (with less flame colors) until this year.

2009 Press Pass Gold #209

AARP's Drive to End Hunger scheme has changed every single year it has been on the car. Not every year has appeared on cards.
2012 Ignite #56
The only card I have that shows the Axalta paint scheme is the Burning Rubber insert from this year's Press Pass.

I do not want Jeff to retire, I want him to keep racing, but I understand why he is. NASCAR isn't going to be as fun without the opportunity to watch him race. He won't be totally out of sight though, as he joins the Fox broadcasts as an announcer.

And of course, he still has one race and a VERY good chance to win another championship tomorrow! If he does that, he'll still be setting records in his last race. The current margin of time between Cup titles is 12 years, set by Terry Labonte, who won in 1984 and 1996. If Jeff wins tomorrow, the new record will be 14 years, as Jeff's most recent Championship was 2001.

Good luck Jeff, and thanks for the memories!

1 comment:

  1. This is the!!!! Absolutely fantastic writing and a wonderful tribute to my favorite driver.