NASCAR

Jeff Gordon Drew Inspiration From Rick Hendrick and His Grueling Cancer Fight

He never needed any motivation when it came to motorsports. Jeff Gordon was a NASCAR stud and was able to rack up 93 career victories and become one of the all-time greats. Gordon also drew inspiration from team owner Rick Hendrick, the businessman. In the late 1990s, Gordon drew inspiration from Rick Hendrick, the person.

Jeff Gordon’s Hall-of-Fame NASCAR career

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Jeff Gordon needs no introduction when it comes to NASCAR fans. Gordon burst onto the NASCAR scene at an early age and has been known as one of the most influential people on the sport for doing so. Gordon earned his first Cup Series title when he was 24 and increased the sport’s popularity by bringing its attention to the younger generation.

Gordon’s championship in 1995 didn’t stop there. He wound up with three more Cup titles, winning again in 1997, 1998, and 2001. Gordon is also a three-time Daytona 500 champion, claiming victory in 1997, 1999, and 2005. He has completed three career Grand Slams.

Gordon is third on the all-time list for Cup Series wins with 93. He’s first in the win department since the modern era (1972-present). Gordon was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2018. He then was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame the following year.

Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon formed the perfect team

During his NASCAR days, Jeff Gordon raced for Rick Hendrick at Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick and Gordon formed a bond that still exists. After his NASCAR days, Gordon took an ownership stake and is a top executive at Hendrick Motorsports. Those talks had been going on for some time.

Before Gordon was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2019, he spoke about someday taking over Hendrick Motorsports. “I can tell you how long those conversations have been going on and it’s a long time,” Gordon said, according to NASCAR.com. “I would love to be in that position one day.”

Gordon said he always thought about an ownership role even during his driving days. “When I made the decision to step away from driving, that decision was made three years before I actually did it,” Gordon said. “I went to Rick and told him what I wanted to do and felt like it was the right time. I felt like there were things starting to line up with Chase Elliott. So those things were playing out well, timing-wise, for me and I thought for Hendrick.”

Gordon drew inspiration from Hendrick as an owner and person

When he was driving, Jeff Gordon respected his owner Rick Hendrick. Gordon knew how much he had done for his career and he wanted to pay him back any way he could. “I have so much respect for the organization in being not just an equity owner, but for what they’ve done for me, what that organization has done for my career,” Gordon said in 2019, according to NASCAR.com. “I feel like I owe that back to them to be respectful and try to give all I can back to continue to see it be successful, even when I stepped away. And I knew one day when I stepped away that I would play a larger role.”

Gordon also had much respect for Hendrick when the owner was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in November of 1996. Hendrick struggled with his health as he battled through chemotherapy for many years. Although Hendrick didn’t attend Gordon’s Daytona 500 win in 1997, missing his first Daytona 500 in 10 years, he managed to attend as many races as possible. Racing was a form of therapy for Hendrick, and Gordon knew how much it meant to him.

“The best medicine for him was being able to sit and watch the TV,” Gordon said to the Tampa Bay Times back in 2005, “and see his racecar go to victory lane, or win a championship. He’s a great inspiration to us all. Before he got sick, he was an inspiration to us because he was a great person – not just a great businessman. He loves racing, and this is what he wants to do this year – to go to as many races as possible.”