Jeff Gordon holds a cemented NASCAR legacy as one of the greatest drivers in the sport’s history. He accomplished all that while donning the No. 24 on the side of his stock car for more than two decades. Years later, it came to light that the film “Days of Thunder” played a pivotal part in his number selection process.
Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR legacy
Jeff Gordon quickly rose through the ranks in professional racing as one of the most talented young drivers.
He earned an opportunity to latch onto Hendrick Motorsports, opening the door to a two-plus decade career. He then achieved tremendous success, capturing four Cup Series championships and ranking third all-time with 93 Cup Series wins.
Gordon also holds NASCAR records with 12 restrictor-plate wins and nine road course victories. He won three career Grand Slams and holds the modern-day mark with at least one pole position in 23 consecutive seasons. Gordon was also the youngest driver to win a championship.
Before he embarked on his journey with Hendrick Motorsports, his career Cup Series nearly began with another number on his car.
‘Days of Thunder’ opened the door to NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon choosing his iconic No. 24
After joining Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon embarked on a full-time Cup Series driver career behind the wheel of the No. 24 car.
However, he nearly donned a completely different number on the sides of the DuPont stock car. In January 2015, Gordon’s former crew chief, Ray Evernham, revealed on Twitter that the Hall of Famer was on track to drive the No. 46 car in 1993.
Rick Hendrick was ready to roll with Gordon driving the No. 46 car, but those plans changed due to the film “Days of Thunder” as the vehicle prominently featured in the movie had that same number. That alone created a licensing agreement preventing any team from using the number full-time, forcing Hendrick Motorsports to pivot to different digits (h/t SB Nation).
“I don’t know if it was a full-time licensing issue or whatever with the ‘Days of Thunder’ movie or Paramount or whoever, but we had to change to No. 24 because we had actually built some and I think we might have tested some cars and actually had some cars with the No. 46,” Evernham said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio.
Although Gordon rolled with No. 24 full-time, Hendrick Motorsports did have Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser use No. 46 in the 1993 Daytona 500. Nonetheless, it’s a path that would have had a subtle change to his career and erased the legendary status around No. 24.
NASCAR remains a strong fixture in his life
Although Gordon’s NASCAR racing career is in the books, his involvement with the sport remains strong.
He has taken up broadcast duties for NASCAR on Fox, where he has cemented himself as a staple in the booth. Meanwhile, he maintains a steady role with Hendrick Motorsports through his equity ownership of the No. 24 car that William Byron now drives.
Gordon should also take over the reins of the company once Hendrick heads into retirement. He isn’t going anywhere for quite some time.
Gordon is one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history, and his continued strong presence only further uplifts the sport.