After finishing 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, Jeff Gordon’s expectations coming to Champion’s Week were fairly uninspired.
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As the four-time champion sat patiently in the National Motorsports Press Association’s Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon on Thursday, little did Gordon know his week was about to change.
With third-generation racers from the Myers Family, Burt and Jason, explaining the criteria for the Myers Brothers Award — which honors individuals for their outstanding contribution to sport of stock car racing — the words “pediatric” and “cancer” piqued Gordon’s curiosity.
But when Burt and Jason detailed the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation project in Rwanda — Gordon was simply speechless.
“This is a surprise,” he said, still a bit choked up. “Could someone have warned me a little bit?”
Gordon clearly was unprepared to win the award, but he winged his acceptance with championship form. As he returned to the table to greet well-wishers, Gordon said, “That was a tough one. I had so much more I’d like to say up there, but wow that was amazing.”
However, Gordon’s humility was in line with the 41-year-old racer-turned-philanthropist who likely will become more famous over time for his body of work off the track. Despite 20 years at the Sprint Cup level and 87 career wins — third on the all-time victory list — Gordon’s reach outside the sport has just begun.
“For 20 years, I’ve been coming to this event and watched all the people that have been honored by this in the past across the board,” Gordon said. “I’ve had so much respect for their dedication. And I don’t look at myself in that category. That’s why it’s so overwhelming and means so much. It’s pretty cool.”