Editors Note: This is the third in a four-part series of first-person recollections honoring the legend that is Jeff Gordon. After a 23-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, Gordon will end his record-making run as a full-time driver on Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Gordon will be one of the four drivers who will remain eligible for this year's championship. This series gives an insider's perspective by those who have influenced -- or been influenced by -- the four-time series champion.
'Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday' has been a motto for NASCAR manufacturers since the first NASCAR race in 1948, and few know its truth like Jim Campbell, General Motors' U.S. vice president, performance and motorsports, who has worked on the Chevrolet brand since 1987. As told to the NASCAR Wire Service's Reid Spencer, below is a first-person account from Campbell, who has seen first-hand how Jeff Gordon's on-track excellence has influenced Chevrolet's show room success.
Jeff Gordon has been the consummate Chevy racer. He’s been a Chevy guy all the way through, and his record speaks for itself, between all the consecutive starts since 1992, the poles, the 93 wins, the championships, the Brickyard 400 championships, the Daytona 500 championships.
For us, he’s a Chevy racer and champion ... and as a Chevy dealer, he's truly part of the family.
It was an absolute thrill when he won at Martinsville, to know that he’s now locked into the final race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Knowing how important family is to Jeff, the entire Chevy nation and everybody at Chevrolet Division were absolutely thrilled to watch him celebrate with Ingrid, Ella and Leo in Victory Lane. It was emotional for all of us, and thus far, the lasting moment of his final season.
But, obviously, we're hoping for at least one more moment exactly like that. Winning the championship would be the ultimate conclusion to his spectacular career. I know Jeff and his team are going to do anything they can to put him in position to win the title. The entire Hendrick organization and everybody at Chevy stands behind him, supporting the effort.
I have so many great memories of Jeff's success, however his winning performances at the Brickyard truly stand out to me. I was at the first Brickyard 400 in ’94, which Jeff famously won, and it was absolutely unforgettable. Then, to watch him win his fifth Brickyard championship in 2014 and having the opportunity to kiss the bricks together — that ranks among my favorite moments in motorsports. A championship is the ultimate statement of being at the top of his game as a Chevy race car driver, so those four championships are equally as spectacular, but the two Brickyard wins — one in ’94 and his fifth in 2014 — are moments that will always stay with me.
To watch him do the same thing again in Martinsville, and to witness the crowd reaction ... Homestead will be a must-watch. Whether you're a Jeff Gordon fan, or a fan of another driver, it's clear that Jeff will have a lot of people pulling for him in Miami. It’s a pretty spectacular way for him to finish out his racing career.
We couldn’t be prouder of our association with him. Jeff is an incredible, intense racer at the track. When he’s in preparation mode, he’s 100 percent focused on racing and working with his team to get the right setup. Off the track, he’s the consummate professional, and he’s been an incredible representative of Chevrolet.
We just did a commercial celebrating Jeff’s career, and it highlights how Jeff has driven us to the winner’s circle over the years. What’s interesting is that Jeff has driven in a new era. We actually say it in the commercial — in a lot of ways, it lines up perfectly with the new era of our latest cars. Over his career, I think he really did a great job of being a spokesman for the sport and expanding the appeal of NASCAR. His ability to cross over to different media to get additional exposure for NASCAR and for Chevrolet has been invaluable, and it still is.
I recall a time at the L.A. Auto Show where he flew in from a race the night before, and we had a very early West Coast media tour where we had eight different stations around the country taping segments. We had just announced that we put a V8 back into the Impala and in the new Monte Carlo, and Jeff came into that auto show forum and was just incredible. We had a chance to really highlight the benefits of that particular engine, which had at the time ‘displacement on demand.’ Let me tell you, Jeff is a total pro on and off the race track.
We couldn’t have had a better driver on our team, and I’m thankful every day for Rick Hendrick signing him when he did.
As told to the NASCAR Wire Service's Reid Spencer.