Jeff Gordon’s career comes full circle, so-to-speak, on Sunday. Sure, he still has most of the 2015 season left before he rides off into the sunset, but this weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for race two of the 2015 season.
AMS is where it all started for Gordon, or at least that’s where the Sprint (then-Winston) Cup act of this NASCAR play got underway.
The year was 1992, and Atlanta played host to the season finale that year. I guess it could be said that as one NASCAR Cup level chapter closed, another opened. The race that was Gordon’s first at NASCAR’s top level was the last for another NASCAR legend — seven-time champion Richard Petty.
“The first thing that really comes to mind is that I just love Atlanta,” Gordon was quoted as saying on FOXSports.com’s “Shake and Bake” blog.
That makes sense. A person’s first time is definitely memorable, but Gordon has even more reasons to fondly remember racing Atlanta. After all, he’s made five trips to victory lane at the track. And speaking of victory lane, he claimed his first NASCAR national level win at AMS, that being in the Xfinity (then-Busch) Series earlier in 1992.
Admittedly, Gordon’s first Cup start at Atlanta wasn’t all that memorable for, perhaps, anyone other than Gordon. He crashed and wound up 31st. Gordon’s run at Atlanta back in 1992 didn’t exactly make big headlines.
Who would’ve ever imagined then what Gordon would go on to accomplish in NASCAR? Here’s a brief rundown: he’s a four-time champion and has 92 race wins at the Cup level, putting him third behind Petty and David Pearson. Both of those other guys are already in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Look for Gordon to be there sooner rather than later. I’m guessing the only thing we’ll be waiting on is for NASCAR’s time requirement between climbing out of the car for the last time and Hall eligibility.
As for the Hooters 500 at Atlanta on Nov. 15, 1992, Bill Elliott claimed his fifth win of the season in that race, but it wasn’t enough to claim a second Winston Cup. Instead, Alan Kulwicki led the most laps and finished second to Elliott to claim the title by a scant 10 points.
In 1992, the big headlines coming out of the Hooters 500 a included a win by Elliott, a championship for Kulwiki, and final farewell for Petty. Oh yeah, some kid who’s going to become a legend got his start on NASCAR’s big stage. Oh, if we only had a crystal ball back then to see what was coming.
PHOTO (courtesy of NASCAR and used with permission): Jeff Gordon before his first-career NASCAR Cup start at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Nov. 15, 1992.
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