CONCORD, N.C. – Jeff Gordon’s first full season in NASCAR came in 1993 when he was 21 years old. He won his first race the following year and never stopped winning, capturing 93 victories and four championships along the way.
Now, he’s a first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer.
Wednesday evening, in his first year of eligibility, Gordon was announced as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2019 alongside Jack Roush, Roger Penske, Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki.
"There are certain athletes in the world that over a span of years can change and adapt and continue to be competitive," said Ray Evernham, who won three championships as Gordon’s crew chief. "When you've got somebody that can do that and be at the top of a sport over the span of 20 years, it just says what an incredible athlete or what an incredible person they are."
To that point, Gordon won at least one race in 20 different seasons, which is tied for the second-most in Cup Series history.
In 805 career starts -- including a record 797 consecutive -- he finished inside the top 10 477 times, inside the top five 325 times and in Victory Lane 93 times.
He ranks third all-time in wins and top-five finishes and second all-time in top-10s. He won at least one pole in all 23 of his full-time Cup seasons, which is a record, and totaled 81 career poles, which is third-most all-time.
His 12 wins on restrictor-plate tracks, nine road course wins, six Southern 500 wins and five Brickyard 400 wins are each all-time records.
“What he did for me and my family and our company is obvious, 93 wins and four championships,” Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick said prior to the final race of Gordon’s full-time career. “He’s just a special person.”
The main criteria for induction into the Hall of Fame are NASCAR accomplishments and contributions to the sport.
There’s no doubt Gordon meets that standard.
But even more than his statistics, Gordon’s impact has been immeasurable.
“He opened up a whole new world of fan base to us, to the sport of NASCAR,” Hendrick said. “He connects with everybody. He connects with young, old, male, female.”
"When you mention the huge names in other sports like (Joe) Montana and people,” Evernham added, “whether it's football, baseball, basketball, you've got to put Jeff Gordon's name in that group."
The Hall of Fame class was determined by a voting panel that includes representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, manufacturers, track owners, broadcasters, media members, former owners and drivers – and even one ballot from a nationwide fan vote.
The class of 2019 will be officially inducted this coming January.