Jeff Gordon is commonly held as one of NASCAR‘s greatest drivers. Gordon helped trailblaze the sport during his nearly three-decade career behind the wheel. Before he ventured on that path, though, Rick Hendrick swooped in to snag him away from Ford.
Jeff Gordon’s Illustrious NASCAR career
It didn’t take long for Jeff Gordon to prove himself as one of NASCAR’s best drivers.
Gordon skyrocketed to success as he compiled an illustrious racing career that spanned nearly three decades on the track. He earned four Cup Series championships, and his 93 career Cup Series wins rank third all-time. His 12 restrictor-plate track victories and nine road course wins are both most in NASCAR history.
Before his career took off as a full-time Cup Series driver with Hendrick Motorsports, it saw Ford let him slip through their fingers.
NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon accepted a secret offer from Rick Hendrick to leave Ford
Jeff Gordon received his first opportunity as a full-time NASCAR driver with Bill Davis Racing for the 1991 season.
It came after he competed for Hugh Connerty Racing a couple of times at the tail end of 1990. Gordon raced the entire 1991 and 1992 seasons with the company.
In his first campaign, he won Rookie of the Year honors behind five top-five finishes and 10 top 10s. Gordon followed it up the next year with three race wins, 11 poles and a fourth-place finish in the points standings.
However, things took a different course from that point on in his racing career as Rick Hendrick privately approached Gordon to join his team. According to Autoweek, once Gordon discovered his deal with Bill Davis Racing only ran through the 1992 season, he secretly accepted Hendrick’s offer to run the Cup Series for the 1993 campaign.
The rising star didn’t inform Davis until May 1992 that he was leaving the team after that campaign. Gordon has voiced that he wishes he would have handled the decision differently.
“It was very difficult to tell Bill that I had signed with Rick,” Gordon said. “There are a handful of things in life I’ve gone through—really tough choices, tough decisions—that I didn’t handle the way I wish I had. There are things I would have done differently if I could, and certainly that was one of them.
“I loved Bill and [Bill’s wife] Gail and their amazing team, but I also knew their dream to go Cup racing was just a dream. I didn’t think it was a reality, certainly not at the level of Hendrick or Penske or Childress or Roush. It was clear to me where I wanted to go, and that was Hendrick.”
Gordon’s decision pushed him out the door with Ford and into competing in a Chevy stock car for the rest of his illustrious racing career with Hendrick Motorsports.
Hendrick Motorsports benefited greatly from the company-changing move
Jeff Gordon’s decision to join Hendrick Motorsports quickly helped his career soar to great heights.
Gordon won his first of four Cup Series championships in 1995, followed by two more titles over the next three years. That includes finishing second in the points standings in the only year over that stretch that he didn’t win a championship.
Gordon went on to win his fourth title in 2001 while placing in the top 10 in the points standings 21 times, including 11 times in the top five.
Hendrick’s ability to lure in a generational talent such as Gordon helped elevate his brand and company to tremendous success. Beyond that, he found someone he feels quite comfortable with replacing him to run his $350 million company once he steps into retirement.
It’s a move he wholeheartedly believes was the best career decision he’s ever made.