Jeff Gordon wrapped up the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup crown at Atlanta and enjoyed a victory celebration in New York City during the holiday season. He now has four series titles and is on pace, some say, to become the greatest driver the sport has ever seen.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Gordon says.
Gordon, 30, has 58 career victories, seventh on the all-time list. And with four Winston Cup titles, he is three away from tying Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the record seven, and four away from being alone at the top.
Considering Gordon’s age and ability – and the fact that Earnhardt’s seventh championship came at age 43 – the Wonder Boy is on pace to make history.
“Each day, winning the championship sinks in a little bit more,” Gordon says. “Every day you think about it more and get a little more excited. I’m just so proud of this race team.”
After Gordon finished off the pace in 2000, when Bobby Labonte won the title, even Gordon himself had lower expectations for 2001.
“We were still in a rebuilding mode and didn’t even think we had a chance to win a championship,” Gordon says. “I never expected all this when I turned 30, and I can’t even think about what to expect when I’m 40.”
“Each championship means more than the other,” says the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “And 2001 was especially meaningful after we lost Dale [Earnhardt] at Daytona and then had the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.”
In December, Gordon received his trophy at a Waldorf-Astoria banquet in New York City. Many NASCAR attendees toured the World Trade Center site.
“Through the Jeff Gordon Foundation, we’ve already donated money to one of the victims’ funds in New York,” Gordon says. “But going to Ground Zero is emotional. It’s a mind-altering experience. All I hoped to do was encourage those people who’ve been there working day and night. We just wanted them to know that they’re not only rebuilding a city, they’re rebuilding freedom.”