The Hustle: Jeff Gordon on becoming NASCAR’s Iron Man

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"I was determined... Nothing was going to stop me from getting in that car and giving 100%." Jeff Gordon reflects on his 797 consecutive starts.

[MUSIC PLAYING] JEFF GORDON: 1995 probably really defined my career. And that's because it was my first year of winning a championship in a Cup Series, but also I was going up against Dale Earnhardt Sr., a legend in the sport. We couldn't have been more polar opposites in our path to getting to that level. From the color of my car to the way I wore my clothes just completely different than Dale Earnhardt Sr., but yet it built a heck of a fanbase-- not just for me, but for the sport because you saw these two contrasts come together and battling it out every weekend and battling it out for the championship.

And Dale would put some digs out there in the media towards me. And I didn't fire back much. I just wanted to go out there and do my job and luckily, for me, I ended up winning a championship that year. But I definitely think that year set me apart from many others. I never set out when I started racing in a Cup Series to try to be an Iron Man or look at that number and that streak. I remember some of the competitors, when I first came in the sport, talking about them racing their 500 or 600 starts. And I thought, man, that's crazy. How do you ever get to that number? And then, it seemed like, in a blink of an eye, here I was passing 700 and almost getting to 800.

I'm definitely proud of what I've put into the sport, what I gave. And certainly, it did so much for me that I feel honored that I was able to go out each and every weekend and give 100% back to my team. And to be able to have that number. I mean, 797 consecutive starts. I actually have to go all the way back to when I was a kid, prior to NASCAR, to think of a race that I missed. It wasn't even an injury. And I was probably-- I don't know-- 16 years old when I got poison ivy. And I couldn't bend my arm. My arm swelled up so bad that I couldn't race that weekend. And ever since then, if there was a race on the schedule, I was there.

And I never really looked at myself as being tough, but I was determined. And that's what got me in that race car every single weekend to fight through. You could be sick, have the flu, or whatever it may be, but nothing was going to stop me from getting in that car and giving 100%.