Feature Story

Hallways To The Past

Jeff Gordon's First Stock Car Race - October 20, 1990

(October 20, 2011)- - Jeff Gordon turned his first laps in a stock car at the Buck Baker Driving School in Rockingham, North Carolina in 1990. The sprint car racer from Indiana took to the heavier stock car so naturally that Hugh Connerty wanted to sign him for his Busch Grand National car after watching him turn laps at the driving school. "The first time I got into a stock car, which was at a driving school, I loved it to death," Gordon said. "It felt right. I was just attracted to it right off the bat. And the opportunity came to me when I went to the driving school to drive a Busch car. I'd been to several other driving schools and no opportunity had ever come to me."

After receiving the offer to drive Connerty's #67 Outback Steakhouse Pontiac, Gordon called his step-father John Bickford in Indiana that he had found the cars he wanted to drive for the rest of his racing career. Connerty enlisted the help of Andy Petree who made a phone call that would alter the face of stock car racing. Petree called a mechanic from New Jersey to help guide the young driver. The mechanic was Ray Evernham. One month before his Busch series debut, Gordon met Evernham for the first time in Charlotte.

The sight of the slender 19-year-old may have had Evernham questioning the visit. Gordon opened the briefcase he was carrying and Evernham caught a glipse of the contents: a cell phone, a Nintendo GameBoy, and a racing magazine. This was the driver he was going to help rewrite the record books? Whatever doubts Evernham had about Gordon were quickly erased after a track test at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Gordon left no doubt in anyone's mind that he could handle stock cars.

His first Busch race came on October 20, 1990 at Rockingham. Gordon turned the second fastest lap during qualifying and started on the outside of the front row. However, a wreck on lap 33 ended his day. He was credited with a 39th place finish-- hardly the kind of stock car debut which would signal future greatness.

The race featured five past or future Winston Cup champions with 16 titles between them. In addition, there were six past or future Nationwide series champions with a combined seven titles in the event. If that wasn't enough, a future three-time Craftsman Truck series champion also started at Rockingham that day.*

Here's a look at the finishing order from the AC-Delco 200 and where the drivers from Jeff Gordon's first stock car race are now.

Video: JG discusses the 1990 debut
(1:10 to 1:59 mark)

Outback Steakhouse Pontiac
Jeff at Rockingham in the Outback Steakhouse Pontiac

AC-Delco 200

North Carolina Motor Speedway - October 20, 1990

Finsh Strt Car
Driver Make Laps

Where Are They Now?
(As of October 20, 2011)

1 32 31 Steve Grissom Olds 197 Owner of Celebrity's Hot Dogs
2 17 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevr 197 Died in 2001
7-time Cup champion
3 18 97 Morgan Shepherd Ford 197 Nationwide/Truck series driver
4 3 1 Mark Martin Ford 197 Cup series driver
5 1 56 Dave Mader Buick 197 Occasional late model driver. Helping daughter's racing career.
6 11 28 Davey Allison Chevr 197 Died in 1993
7 16 7 Harry Gant Buick 196 Retired following the 1994 season. Maintains a working farm in North Carolina.
8 12 99 Tommy Ellis Buick 196 Imprisoned following felony tax evasion conviction
9 10 32 Dale Jarrett Pontiac 196 ESPN broadcaster.
1999 Cup champion
10 23 42 Bobby Hillin Jr Pontiac 196 Owns hydro excavation service in Texas
11 20 52 Ken Schrader Chevr 196 Part time driver
12 40 96 Tom Peck Olds 196 Late model car owner.
13 27 27 Elton Sawyer Buick 196 Former director of Red Bull Racing
14 37 36 Kenny Wallace Pontiac 196 Broadcaster & Nationwide series driver
15 7 17 Darrell Waltrip Chevr 196 FOX Sports/SPEED broadcaster
3-time Cup champion
16 4 44 Bobby Labonte Olds 195 Cup series driver.
2000 Winston Cup champion
17 25 22 Rick Mast Buick 195 Owns RKM EnviroClean in Virginia
18 15 63 Chuck Bown Pontiac 195 Runs racing tech school
19 5 34 Jack Sprague Buick 195 Truck series driver.
1997,1999,2001 Truck champion
20 34 33 Ed Berrier Olds 195 Crew chief for Robert Johnson (Junior's son)
21 13 2 L.D. Ottinger Olds 194 Operates street rod restoration business
22 26 9 Ward Burton Chevr 194 Runs wildlife conservation foundation
23 29 08 Bobby Dotter Buick 193 Crew chief for SS/Green race team
24 14 57 Tim Bender Chevr 193 Injury in 1997 allowed Matt Kenseth to take his BGN seat and climb to stardom. Snocross team manager.
25 8 25 Jimmy Hensley Olds 191 Fire system installer
26 39 98 Hal Goodson Pontiac 191 Supertruck driver
27 36 19 Cecil Eunice Olds 190 Runs trucking company in Georgia
28 9 79 Dave Rezendes Olds 188 Retired from truck series in 1998. Lives in Massachusetts
29 24 12 Jeff Burton Buick 183 Cup series driver
30 28 45 Patty Moise Buick 176 Events horses
31 6 59 Robert Pressley Olds 126 JTG Racing driver development director
32 19 85 Bobby Moon Olds 120 Late model stock driver made infrequent series starts
33 31 4 Gary Balough Buick 103 Incarcerated after felony guilty verdict in a drug smuggling operation. Released 2010
34 38 8 Bobby Hamilton Olds 103 Died in 2007
35 35 95 Larry Pollard Olds 100 Runs LP Gear race supply company
36 22 11 Jack Ingram Chevr 99 Retired as the all-time Busch series wins leader.
Two-time Busch series champion.
37 33 94 Stanley Smith Buick 99 Critically injured in a wreck at Talladega in 1993. Living in Alabama
38 30 81 Jeff Green Chevr 35 Part time Cup series driver.
2000 Busch series champion
39 2 67 Jeff Gordon Pontiac 33 Cup series driver.
1995,1997,1998,2001 champion
40 21 6 Tommy Houston Buick 3 Welder/pit cart constructor

*Statistics as of October 20, 2011

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