24 Days until the Daytona 500

In Sprint Cup Series competition the #24 car has started 1413 races and has 93 wins, 84 poles, 374 top 5s, 639 top 10s, and 290 DNFs.

  • Jeff Gordon drove the #24 in every single consecutive 797 starts of his career since 1992 for 93 wins, 3rd most all time. In 1992, Roush Racing owner Jack Roush expressed interest in signing Gordon, which would keep him in the Ford Racing stable, but Gordon’s stepfather John Bickford had wanted Ray Evernham as crew chief, but Roush stated he selected crew chiefs, not his drivers. Gordon and Evernham were signed away from Bill Davis Racing  after Rick Hendrick  watched Gordon’s first Busch Series victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March of 1992.
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Jeff Gordon, 1999
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Gordon (left) & Evernham

The car number was originally to have been 46 , a car fielded by Hendrick for Greg Sacks for the filming of Days of Thunder in 1989, but was changed after a licencing conflict with Paramount Pictures. The number 24 was selected due to it having little significance in NASCAR history prior to Gordon. Gordon debuted in the 1992 Hooters 500, with the now iconic DuPont rainbow paint scheme designed by Sam Bass, qualifying twenty-first and finishing thirty-first following a crash.

Jeff Gordon at Daytona 1994
Jeff Gordon, 1992

The team went full-time in 1993 with crew chief Ray Evernham. Gordon won his Twin 125 qualifying race  at Daytona and finished fifth in the Daytona 500 . He finished fourteenth in points and took home rookie of the year honors. In 1994, Gordon won his first career race at the Coca-Cola 600  and also won the inaugural Brickyard  400 at Indianapolis. Gordon improved to eighth in the points that year. The following year, Gordon would go on to win the 1995 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup)championship . He finished runner-up to teammate Terry Labonte for the 1996 championship. He was given the nickname “Wonder Boy”  by Dale Earnhardt, and his crew was called the “Rainbow Warriors” . In addition to the 1997 Daytona 500 , Gordon won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998  and also tied Richard Petty’s modern era record for most victories in a season with thirteen.

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Jeff Gordon, 1993
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Gordon at Indianapolis, 1994
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Gordon, 1995 Champion
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The Rainbow Warriors, 1997

Gordon won the 1999 Daytona 500, but the team struggled with consistency that year. Crew chief Ray Evernham announced he was leaving the team to help with Dodge’s return to NASCAR that September. He was replaced by Brian Whitesell, who guided Gordon to wins in the first two races after Evernham’s departure. At the end of the season, Gordon signed a lifetime contract with the team that gave him part ownership. In 2000, Whitesell moved to a new position within the organization and was replaced by Robbie Loomis. Gordon picked up his fiftieth career victory at Talladega but finished ninth in points. He bounced back in 2001, winning his fourth championship.

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Jeff Gordon, 2001

In 2002, Gordon became car owner for Jimmie Johnson  and announced his first wife Brooke  had filed for divorce. He finished fourth in points in 2003. In 2004, Gordon finished third in the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup. After winning three of the first nine races in 2005 including the Daytona 500 , his season fell into a downward spiral. Gordon missed the chase for the Nextel Cup and finished eleventh in points that year, which was the first time since his rookie season that he finished outside the top ten in points. 2006 was Gordon’s comeback year. With the help of new crew chief Steve Letarte, Gordon would rebound to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup and finish sixth in points. In 2006 he also married his second wife Ingrid Vandebosch.

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Gordon and his protege, 2003
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Gordon after winning the 2005 Daytona 500

In 2007, despite winning six races and scoring a modern era record thirty top 10s, Gordon wound up finishing second in points to teammate Jimmie Johnson. In 2008 Gordon returned to the Chase, but he failed to win a race for the first time since his rookie year. Despite that statistic, he managed to enter the Chase and finish seventh in the season points standings. At the end of the 2008 season, Gordon unveiled on The Today Show his new Firestorm  paint scheme for 2009 and beyond. Beginning in 2011, Alan Gustafson became the crew chief of the No. 24 team. Gordon’s primary sponsor changed to AARP  and Gordon partnering to form the “Drive to End Hunger” initiative. The deal lasts for 22 races over the next two years, with Pepsi and DuPont continuing their associate deals. The new combination saw a resurgence for Gordon, as he won at Phoenix, Pocono, and Atlanta and finished 8th in points.

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Gordon’s “Firestorm” car, 2008
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Gordon, 2011

The following season, Gordon would be hampered by bad luck during most of the regular season. However, a win at Pocono and a 2nd place finish at Richmond vaulted Gordon into the 2012 Chase. At the Phoenix race, Gordon would tangle with fellow Chase contender Clint Bowyer, intentionally taking him out  late in the race after initial contact early on. Gordon was fined $100,000 by NASCAR for the incident.

Gordon bounced back to take his first win in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the first time a Hendrick team had won at the circuit in Sprint Cup, in the final race for DuPont  as Gordon’s sponsor, as a restructuring of DuPont meant the Performance Coatings group that sponsored Gordon would be spun off. That spinoff company, Axalta  Coating Systems, owned by The Carlyle Group, replaced DuPont as the primary sponsor for the 14 races not covered by the AARP or Pepsi in 2013.

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Gordon’s final race with Dupont
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Gordon’s AXALTA car

During the 2014 Coca-Cola 600 weekend, Gordon complained of back spasms, and skipped final practice; Regan Smith was tabbed to run in the event Gordon needed to be substituted, but Gordon ran the full 600 miles, finishing seventh. During the AAA Texas 500, Gordon and Keselowski were racing along with Jimmie Johnson for the win with a handful of laps left when Gordon collided  with Keselowski, which cut out his own tire and led to him spinning. Gordon would fall to 29th, while Keselowski would finish third. Following the race, Gordon verbally confronted Keselowski in pit road over the incident with both drivers being surrounded by their pit crews. However, it escalated into a brawl  due to Keselowski being shoved from behind by Harvick, who had also battled with Keselowski in the final laps. The brawl ended up involving the crew chiefs of both teams as well as other members from Kahne, Danica Patrick and Paul Menard’s teams. Both Gordon and Keselowski sustained facial cuts.

At Phoenix, Gordon finished 2nd to Harvick, but Newman edged him out for the fourth and final championship spot by one point to transfer to the final four in contention for the championship. Gordon won the pole for the final race at Homestead, and led a race-high 161 laps, but the decision to pit with 13 laps to go relegated him to 24th, and he finished 10th. The finish marked his 454th top-ten, surpassing Mark Martin for second in all-time top tens, behind Richard Petty’s 712. After the season ended, Gordon finished sixth in points; had the Chase not existed, he would have won a series record-tying 7th title based on total points scored in a season. Gordon, along with Austin Dillon, were the only drivers in 2014 to finish every race

On January 22, 2015, Gordon announced  that 2015 would be his last as a full-time driver, but did not rule out retirement entirely. Three days later, USA Today writer Jeff Gluck reported that Gordon was hired by NASCAR on Fox to work as a rotating analyst for Xfinity Series races alongside Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. Gordon’s 2015 season climaxed at Martinsville in October where he would win his only race of the season, clinching a spot in the Championship 4. Gordon finished 3rd in the final standings.

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Gordon announcing his retirement to his crew, 2015
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Jeff Gordon’s final ride, 2015

Starting in 2016, Gordon became a full-time member of the NASCAR on FOX broadcasting team, sharing the booth with Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip.

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  • After Jeff Gordon’s retirement, 2014 XFINITY Series Champion Chase Elliott was promoted to the Cup series to take the helm of the #24 car, bringing his sponsor NAPA Auto Parts with him.
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Chase Elliott (left) and car owner Rick Hendrick, unveiling the 2016 paint scheme for the #24

In his Daytona 500 debut, Elliott won the pole and, at the age of 20, became the youngest pole-sitter in 500 history.Elliott led three laps in the race, but on lap 18, spun exiting turn four and slid into the grass, damaging the front of the car. Elliott returned to the race on lap 59, 40 laps down, and finished 37th.

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Chase Elliott, 2016 Daytona 500 Pole Winner

 

The next week he finished 8th at Atlanta for his first Sprint Cup top ten finish. The following week, at Las Vegas, Elliott showed a strong car all day and even had his car inside the top 5 with 40 laps to go, but crashed and finished 38th. Elliott picked up more top tens during the spring, finishing 5th at Texas for his first career Top-5, 4th at Bristol, 5th at Talladega, 9th at Kansas, 3rd at Dover, 8th in the Coca-Cola 600, and a career best 2nd at Michigan.

He won the fan vote to advance into the All-Star Race along with Danica Patrick where he finished a respectable 7th after nearly winning the final segment of the Sprint Showdown, losing to Kyle Larson in a photo finish.

 

  At Pocono for the running of the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400, Elliott would have his breakout race of his Sprint Cup career, Elliott would start 13th and later get the lead in the race and he would lead a race high of 51 laps, leading the most laps in a Sprint Cup race for the first time in his career. On a restart Elliott would lose the lead and then race came down close to fuel but the fuel would hold and he would finish 4th. At Michigan in June, Elliott finished second after he missed a shift in the lead.

 

He was one of the first rookies to qualify for The Chase for the Sprint Cup, along with Chris Buescher, since Denny Hamlin in 2006. To date, Elliott has started 36 races in #24. Elliott will return to the #24 car in 2017.

 

  • The only other driver to make more than just a few starts in #24 was also named Gordon, no relation to Jeff or Robby. Cecil Gordon drove in the NASCAR Grand National (Sprint Cup) Series, for 17 years and drove in a total of 449 races, 373 in #24 from 1970-1983. He never won and never got a pole, but got 29 top fives, 111 top tens. He finished third in points in 1971 and 1973. He completed 112,908 laps and only led 23 of them.
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Cecil Gordon, 1973
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Cecil Gordon, 1979

Other notable names in #24

  • Bobby Allison, 11 starts
  • Lennie Pond, 11 starts
  • Bob Welborn, 8 starts
  • Morgan Shepherd, 7 starts
  • Dick Trickle, 6 starts
  • Tiny Lund, 3 starts
  • Butch Gilliland, 3 starts
  • Kenny Wallace, 3 starts
  • Glen Wood, 1 start
  • Richard Petty, 1 start
  • Curtis Turner, 1 start

In the Truck Series, Jack Sprague  is a 3 time series Champion in the #24 with 23 wins. The late Ricky Hendrick  made 16 XFINITY Series starts in #24 from 1999-2001. From 2001-2002 Jack Sprague  drove the #24 in the XFINITY Series earning 1 win ( a total of 24 wins in the number between the 2 series).

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Jack Sprague: 1997, 1999, & 2001 Truck Series Champion
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Ricky Hendrick, 2001
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Jack Sprague, 2002
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