CHARLOTTE, N.C. – With Jeff Gordon’s name on the NASCAR Hall of Fame ballot, it might have seemed certain that the four-time champion would be a member of the class of 2019.
But Gordon himself wasn’t taking anything for granted.
“You never know until they announce it,” he said. “I was trying not to get my hopes up or get too caught up into all of it.”
When the class was named Wednesday night, Gordon didn’t have to wait long to find out his fate – his name was called first. And not only did he become a first-ballot Hall of Famer, he did so with a record 96 percent of the vote.
“When you hear your name, I don't know, I had different feelings,” he said. “I wasn't that nervous until it got to that moment. Then I was like, man, this is very special.”
Gordon was at the FOX Sports studios when he got the news, and the company joining him there – including his wife and children – made the moment all the more meaningful.
“When you're surrounded by your family, especially my mom and dad, they sacrificed everything to get me into racing,” he said. “I can just see the look in their eyes of how proud they are because of the role they played, how they've seen me since I was just a kid be passionate about racing. I think sort of disbelief for all of us that it's led to this.”
That “disbelief” was hard to put into words immediately following the announcement.
Gordon acknowledged that he’s “still trying to process” where the feeling ranks among his many memorable moments throughout his career.
Joining a NASCAR Hall of Fame with the legends that have been inducted before him, the prestigious group he accompanies in the current class and the many superstars that will go in after him led the driver to admit that at times he doesn’t feel worthy.
“To me, I was a kid from California that was racing Sprint cars and midgets in Indiana, came down to North Carolina hoping and dreaming of something – but I didn’t know much about NASCAR racing,” he said. “When you look back at that, this is very, very surreal to me. Then when I look at the last 25, 26 years, what I put into it, what it's meant to my life, how it's changed my life, I look the era through the '90s, how that has impacted and changed my life, what I gave back to a sport that gave me so much.
“I'm just really proud and honored to be a part of this.”