Jeff Gordon signed with Bill Davis Racing for the 1991 Busch Grand National season. He moved to the Charlotte area and lived in a small apartment north of the city. "Lee Morse, Fordís racing chief, and Michael Kranefuss got us watching Jeff, but it was our decision to hire him," Davis said. "Jeff qualified on the outside pole at Rockingham in his first Busch series race and that made up our minds."
It was a year of frenzied racing for the 20 year old phenom. In addition to running the full Busch series schedule in the #1 Carolina Ford Dealers Ford, he won the coveted USAC Silver Crown title flying back and forth to racetracks on more than a few weekends. In Busch racing, Gordon would struggle to find the handle on the heavier stock cars. Though he did have flashes of brilliance en route to the series Rookie of the Year award.
It took six races for Gordon to score his first top ten of the season, which came at Darlington Raceway-- hardly a track forgiving to rookies. At Lanier Raceway he qualified third and finished second, his highest stock car finish up to that point. A top five finish at Nazareth and a runner-up finish at Dover were the early highlights of his season. At Orange County Speedway in June he captured his first career pole position. He followed that up with a top ten effort at the track and a runner-up finish the following week at Hickory Motor Speedway. In his first road course race, Gordon qualifed 16th at Watkins Glen and raced his way up to 6th at the finish.
At Oxford Plains Speedway he struggled to a 29th place finish. "He was just a kid and it was his first time here," veteran driver Dave Dion said of Gordon's first race at Oxford Plains. "He asked a lot of questions about the track and he didn't do well in the first day of qualifying. The next day he came back and said 'If you are willing to talk again, I'm willing to listen.' You could tell right then he was going to be a heck of a driver."
Gordon's first race at the 4/10th mile New River Valley Speedway in Radford, Virginia was less than memorable. He qualified 18th and finished 12th. Morris Stephenson was the press agent for the small Virginia track when the Busch series came to town that year. He'd gotten advance word about this one skinny kid who was making a name for himself racing in the midwest. "This boy will never make it," Stephenson remembers telling his sister. His crystal ball turned out to be a little cloudy that day. Gordon has gone on to huge success in Winston Cup racing, the sport's major league. "The quote of my life," Stephenson said. "The quote of my life. She'll never let me live that down."
Gordon's 'homecoming' race was in August at Indianapolis Raceway Park. He qualified 10th but a late race engine problem resulted in a DNF. Gordon rebounded with a strong second place qualifying effort at Bristol and a third place finish in the race. He struggled down the stretch posting just two top 10 finishes in the final seven races. Engine problems again crept up at Darlington and Charlotte. In the season's final race at Martinsville, Gordon crashed in practice and borrowed a car from Bobby Labonte for the race. He raced an Oldsmobile up to 8th place to finish the year.
+Jeff, David Green, and Bobby Labonte
Drivers meeting at Oxford Plains Speedway in 1991
+Daytona qualifying 1991
Jeff failed to qualify for the season-opening race
+Short track action in 1991
Driving the Carolina Ford Dealers Ford
|Mountain Dew 400|
|Roses Stores 300|
|True Value 250|
|Coors Light 300|
New River Valley
|Texas Pete 300|
|Jay Johnson 250|
|All Pro 300|
|AC Delco 200|
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