Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, 43, has opened his final full-time season behind the wheel of the number 24 Hendrick Chevrolet, with a 33rd place finish at the 2015 Daytona 500, and a 41st place finish in Atlanta, both caused by accidents. The 2015 season with crew chief Alan Gustafson will be their fifth consecutive year as a team when they arrive this weekend for the Kobalt 400 on Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS).
In 2014, the duo posted four wins, 14 top-five finishes, a series-leading 23 top-10s and three pole positions –on the way to a sixth-place result in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Gordon extended his streak to 22 consecutive seasons with a pole and 22 straight years of scoring 11 or more top-10s – both of which are the longest current streaks among active drivers. At the Las Vegas Speedway, where this will be his 15th start, he holds the record for most top five finishes, and most laps led.
“While I’m happy for Jeff on making this decision about his future, I also recognize that the sport of NASCAR racing will be losing one of the most talented and dynamic drivers in its rich history,” LVMS President Chris Powell said, upon hearing about his decision. “Jeff Gordon has displayed championship qualities not only on the race track, but also in life. All of us at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he once claimed a million-dollar bonus from Winston, salute Jeff and his stellar career. He’s a champion in every sense of the word.”
Gordon caught the racing bug when he was 5 years old, eventually winning the 1979 and 1981 Quarter Midget national championships, and following that up with championships in the 1990 USAC Midget division, and in the 1991 USAC Silver Crown division. In 1991, Gordon caught the attention of team owner Rick Hendrick during the March Nationwide race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hendrick immediately signed the youngster to come on board to drive the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in 1992. Gordon’s first start in the Cup Series in November 1992 signaled the changing of an era as it was Richard Petty’s final NASCAR event.
In his first full-time Cup season in 1993, Gordon became the first driver to ever win rookie of the year honors in NASCAR’s top two series (now-XFINITY Series 1991), and became the first rookie in 30 years to win a qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway. In 1994, Gordon continued to check off milestones by posting his first career win in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and capturing the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jeff became the youngest champion in NASCAR’s modern era in only his third full season. He also took home the championship trophy in the 1997, 1998 and 2001 seasons. During those years, Gordon’s notable statistics included becoming the youngest driver to ever win the Daytona 500 in 1997, earning 13 wins in the 1998 season – tied the modern-era records with 13 wins and four wins in a row – became the youngest driver in history to achieve 50 wins in 2000 and recorded sixth straight wins at Watkins Glen International.
Gordon’s championship in 2001 made him only the third driver to win more than three championships at the time. In 2004, Gordon became the only stock car driver to win at Indianapolis four times and became only the fourth driver in motor sports history to win at the racetrack. 2007 was a season that created milestones for Gordon; he finished with 30 top-10s – a single season record for the most top-10s in the modern era – set an all-time record for most career restrictor-plate wins (12) and moved to sixth all-time in wins (81) and fourth all-time in career poles (63). Prior to the start of the 2015 season, Gordon remains first in restrictor-plate wins, but now ranks third all-time in wins (92) and third in all-time poles (77).
Jeff’s on-track successes are many but his notable endeavors aren’t just limited to race day. Off the track, Gordon, wife Ingrid, daughter Ella and son Leo live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Thankful for his two healthy children and his successful career, Gordon seeks to help children gain their own victories over pediatric cancer through the work of the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation. Thus he began supporting organizations such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society early in his career after Ray Evernham, then Gordon’s crew chief, learned his son had been diagnosed. In 1992, Gordon took his support a step further and established his foundation in hopes of helping children facing critical illnesses realize their dreams. What started as a small project driven by one special child has grown into an organization that has granted nearly $15 million for children’s charities. Through the years, Gordon has been dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children. The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has established a long-term relationship with Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis – providing funding for new construction, equipment and, most recently, contributing $1.5 million to establish The Jeff Gordon Foundation Pediatric Cancer Research Laboratory.
The Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital at Carolina’s Medical Center-Northeast opened its doors in Concord, North Carolina, in December 2006. Gordon actively participates in the continued growth of the hospital, providing funding for state-of-the-art equipment as well as spending time with patients and their families. There will be many champions to come in the future of the NASCAR family, but one will always stand tall among the greats of the past, and that driver, man, father, son, is Jeff Gordon of California, whose father competed in off-road races when Jeff was learning to walk. This reporter personally raced against his dad in the Mint 400 and Baja. Jeff learned to be a man from his dad, and his love of racing came from guess where?
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Craig Wayne Boyd will put a smile on race fans’ faces prior to the start of the Kobalt 400 on March 8 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The most recent winner of The Voice, Boyd will perform during pre-race festivities for the 18th annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at LVMS. “Holy wow! Getting to be a part of the Kobalt 400 is going to be something I’ll never forget,” Boyd said. “There’s nothing like being at a NASCAR race… the smell of the fuel, the excitement of the crowd, rooting for your favorite driver, and now to be able to stand in the middle of it all and perform to such a loyal NASCAR audience is more than I can ask for! I am truly blessed.”
Boyd, who recently made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry, will play a 15-minute set, including his hit single “My Baby’s got a Smile on Her Face” just prior to driver introductions. “Craig Wayne Boyd is an up-and-coming star in Nashville, and we’re looking forward to having him on our stage before the Kobalt 400,” LVMS president Chris Powell said. “It takes a special talent to win a fierce competition like The Voice, and we’re just excited to hear Craig do his thing here at LVMS.” Boyd is making his mark in Las Vegas as he is also opening for the nine-show Rascal Flatts Vegas Riot! residency, which runs from February 25-March 14 at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Rascal Flatts will perform the national anthem prior to the start of the Kobalt 400.
The Kobalt 400 is the main event of a packed racing weekend that kicks off with two nights of World of Outlaws racing at the Dirt Track on Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5. Stratosphere Pole Day follows on Friday, March 6 and the Boyd Gaming 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race is Saturday, March 7. Tickets for all events remain available. Fans also may purchase driver introduction passes, which will allow them closer access to all pre-race activities, including the performance by Craig Wayne Boyd.
Purchase your tickets to see all of your favorite drivers in fabulous Las Vegas for the March 6 – 8, 2015 NASCAR Weekend. Fans can also experience the one-of-a-kind Neon Garage featuring live music and entertainment all weekend long. Driver introduction and Lucky 7 preferred parking passes also are available. The event weekend includes the Kobalt 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the Boyd Gaming 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race, and Stratosphere Pole Day.
Kelly Clinton – an accomplished singer, actress, comedienne, impressionist, television personality and events host – will perform live in the Chrome Showroom at Santa Fe Station on Sunday, March 8. Showtime is 4 p.m. Doors open at 3 p.m. The cover charge for each show is $15 (tax inclusive), cash at the door.
Las Vegas entertainer, Clinton, may be best described as “a kaleidoscope of talent.” No matter which performing direction she turns to her charismatic rays always shine through. For eight years, Clinton was the headliner at the exclusive Las Vegas “Stirling Club at Turnberry Towers,” where she also served as entertainment director. Being an “entertainers’ entertainer,” Kelly drew many of Las Vegas headliners and performers to her shows. Saturday nights often turned into old Vegas-style jam sessions with Clinton sharing her stage with the likes of Bill Medley, Jack Jones, Clint Holmes, The Scintas, Gordie Brown, Mary Wilson, and other Strip entertainers.
Those fortunate enough to see Clinton will get to know the Las Vegas veteran performer. Growing up as a big fan of Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball, her show is an eclectic presentation of song, comedy, dance and characters. The New Jersey-born performer premiered her one-woman show at the Suncoast in Las Vegas. More recently, she has performed the show to critical acclaim at the popular Metropolitan Room and the venerable Cafe’ Carlyle in New York City. Her celebrity nights at the Bootlegger Bistro, along with her many appearances in show rooms and hot spots in Las Vegas, have made her one of the city’s most respected entertainers.
Clinton’s television credits include “Vegas Live,” alongside Sheena Easton and Clint Holmes. She was a winner on ABC’s “America’s Funniest People.” She served as a celebrity interviewer on “Entertainment Las Vegas Style,” and appeared on numerous national television shows with Wayne Newton and Engelbert Humperdinck, who Kelly shared the stage with in Las Vegas and all over the country. Her theater credits include, Sister Mary Amnesia in the hit show “Nunsense” at the Las Vegas Hilton. In 2010, Clinton received the prestigious Bella Award. In 2011 and 2012, Broadwayworld.com nominated her as Best “Comedic Actress.”
Well, gang, see ya at the races.
I’m outa here!