|Jeff Gordon alone in third all-time wins with 85 NASCAR Cup wins (Getty)|
“I have always liked him as a driver,” said Pearson, next on Gordon’s march up the wins list. “He is smart, takes care of his equipment and when it is time to go, he gets right up there with them. Reminds me some of the way I drove. … He has been the ‘head honcho’ for a long time in NASCAR. He was good out of the box and has been very good ever since.”
Gordon also became the Modern Era (1972-Present) wins leader, breaking a tie with Darrell Waltrip. (Note: “Modern Era” refers to the period in NASCAR Sprint Cup history when NASCAR shortened the schedule from as many as 62 races in 1964 to the 31-race schedule of 1972. Race numbers fluctuated between 28 and 36 since 1972.)
To commemorate the milestone, NASCAR President Mike Helton presented Gordon with an “85” mosaic featuring images from each of the four-time champion’s victories. Additionally, special commemorative “85” hats were worn by Gordon and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team in Victory Lane.
During a career that began on the final race of 1992, Gordon assembled a list of accomplishments fit for a future NASCAR Hall of Famer: Four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, three Daytona 500 victories, four Brickyard 400 victories, most road-course wins all-time (nine) and most restrictor plate wins all-time (12).
Still only 40 years of age, the highlight reel can only grow.
Below is a timeline of Gordon’s notable victories on his way to 85:
1 – On May 29, 1994 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gordon won his first race. It was in one of NASCAR’s biggest events – the Coca-Cola 600.
2 – Gordon won the inaugural NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 6, 1994. He would go on to win three other IMS races, in 1998, 2001 and 2004.
8 – Won another “crown jewel” race, the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, on Sept. 3, 1995.
19 – On Sept. 29, 1996, won his only race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, the final race at the North Carolina short track.
20 – At the time, became the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history at 25 years, six months, 12 days on Feb. 16, 1997. His record was later broken in 2011 by Trevor Bayne (20 years, one day). Gordon also won the Daytona 500 in 1999 and 2005.
28 – On Aug. 31, 1997, won his second Southern 500, capturing a $1 million bonus in what was known as The Winston Million. The Winston Million was given to any driver to win three of the following four races: the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500 and the first Talladega race.
42 – In the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Nov. 8, 1998, won his 13th race of the season, tying a Modern Era record first set by Richard Petty in 1975.
74 – On June 25, 2006, won at Infineon Raceway, his record ninth victory at a road course.
76 – With a win at Phoenix International Raceway on April 21, 2007, Gordon tied Dale Earnhardt for sixth on the all-time wins list. Gordon memorably took a victory lap with a massive No. 3 flag waving out his driver-side window, a tribute to his long-time rival.
80 – On Oct. 7, 2007 at Talladega Superspeedway, Gordon captured his record 12th restrictor-plate victory.
85 – In a race delayed two days because of inclement weather, Gordon captures historic win No. 85 on Sept. 6, 2011 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.