Highlights of Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR career: A fan’s perspective

Most NASCAR fans know that Jeff Gordon was nicknamed "Wonder Boy" by "The Intimidator", Dale Earnhardt, Sr., when his career was just starting out. If you're a fan of the Wonder Boy, here is more about what you might want to know about his life and career in NASCAR.

Jeff Gordon 2011
Creative Commons

Growing up

Jeff was born and raised in the Bay Area of California, in the city of Vallejo. He began racing at the age of five on a homemade racetrack that his stepfather built. He began by racing in the quarter midgets, which is basically a kid-sized race car.

Gordon's stepdad, John Bickford, said that Jeff "slipped around the track for days getting used to the car and how to drive it".

By the time Jeff was eight years-old, he won his first Quarter Midget championship. He had a very competitive spirit, and his first win was soon followed by two more. At age 11, Gordon seemed to win constantly but never seemed cocky, as he realized that anything could happen in a race.

By the age of 14, Jeff's stepfather saw that his stepson had amazing potential, and made the decision for the family to move, first to Florida and then to Indiana where Gordon still lives today.

Jeff's stepdad said that people assume Jeff was brought up by rich parents and that things always came easy for him, but that is far from the truth. He says that the family "slept in pick-up trucks and made our own parts."

Jeff won three Sprint Car Truck championships before he even had his driver's license, and in 1989 at the age of seventeen, he was named USAC Midget Rookie of the Year.

Professional career

In 1992, Gordon raced at Atlanta in the final race of the season, finishing 31st. The following season, in 1993, Jeff was named the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. His first win came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Coca Cola 600 in 1994.

The victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indy was what really thrust Jeff into the spotlight. There were 85 drivers who attempted to qualify for the 43 spots in the 1994 race, and Gordon qualified third.

"Oh my god, I did it, I did it, I did it!", Jeff cried over the radio during the final victory lap. Just a year later, Gordon won his first Sprint Cup championship.

Gordon will be 40 years-old in August, and since his first victory in Charlotte, he has amassed 84 career wins and tied the record for the third most career wins of both active and retired drivers. He has a total of 386 top-ten finishes and 280 top-five finishes in his career, and is currently in tenth place in the Sprint Cup Series points race for the 2011 season.

Personal

Jeff founded the Jeff Gordon Foundation in 1999. The organization is dedicated to supporting the physical, social and intellectual needs of children. In 2011, he also became involved in the "Drive to End Hunger" which is an effort to end hunger among elderly Americans.

Jeff is married to Ingrid Vandebosch and has two children, Ella Sofia and Leo Benjamin.

I grew up watching auto racing at the old Baylands Raceway in Fremont, California, and have been a fan ever since.

More from this contributor:

NASCAR heads to Loudon: Fan's guide to New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ride along supports great charities and offers NASCAR fans a thrill of a lifetime

Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.


Follow Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR coverage on Twitter.
Updated Friday, Jul 15, 2011