|Jeff Gordon, 1993|
The rest, as they say, is history.
Jeff Gordon burst on the NASCAR Cup Series scene in a big way at the season-ending race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992 with global Fortune 500 Company DuPont as a sponsor. The trademark DuPont oval adorned the hood of the famous rainbow-colored No. 24 car designed by renowned motorsports artist Sam Bass to depict the Automotive Finishes paint that DuPont set out to showcase through its sponsorship.
Four championships, 86 victories, over 250,000 customers who have been entertained by DuPont through one of the most prolific at-track hospitality programs in the history of the sport, and four DuPont primary paint schemes later, Gordon reflects on the success of the partnership.
"DuPont gave a young guy with a dream a shot, and I'll never forget that," said Gordon. "They have been a partner in so many more ways than just sponsoring our team. Over two decades, not only have they supported the business of racing at Hendrick Motorsports and my career, but we have built very strong relationships with all of the DuPont employees.
"After a few years into the sponsorship, I started to consider myself a DuPont employee - which is an honor. So I just want to thank all of my 'co-workers' for being my most loyal supporters for the last 20 years."
DuPont and Gordon shared growth, change, success and hard times over the years.
At a time when most of the stars of NASCAR had roots in the South with experience in stock car racing, and didn't succeed at the Cup Series level in their early 20's, Gordon was a bit of an anomaly when he first stepped foot in the Cup Series garage area. Having spent his pre-teen years in California, followed by most of his teen years in Indiana with a background in short track, open-wheel racing, Gordon was not considered a "good ol' boy" in the garage or by fans.
However, Gordon turned heads when he showed up at the season-opening Daytona 500 in February of 1993, winning won one of what was then called the Gatorade Twin-125-mile qualifying races at the famous 2.5-mile superspeedway. Gordon went to win Rookie of the Year honors that season, but it took until his sophomore year to win again at the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That win made Gordon a bonafide NASCAR phenom and launched him into stardom.
Two wins in 1994, followed by seven wins and a championship in 1995, 10 wins and second in points to teammate Terry Labonte in 1996, 10 wins and a championship in 1997, and the "career year" of 1998 when he tied Richard Petty's modern era record of 13 wins in one season and clinched his third title made Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont team the team to beat, week in and week out.
He won his fourth title in 2001, and with 86 career wins is currently third on NASCAR's all-time list.
While Gordon has transformed from a kid with a wispy mustache and a mullet to one of NASCAR's all-time greatest drivers -- leading a life of philanthropy as a 41-year old husband and father of two -- he is still winning races and competing for championships.
This weekend, the "DuPont 20 Years" celebration will include a special commemorative DuPont paint scheme, a customer event on Saturday night and another during race-morning hospitality. They will celebrate, reflect on the years and all wins at every track on the schedule with the exception of one.
Gordon will take to the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday to change that and put an exclamation point on his 20-year career with DuPont.
Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America