Back home in Indiana, Gordon gears for Brickyard
Jeff Gordon was just 23 years and two days old and making his 50th career NASCAR Cup start when he won the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994.
Some considered the victory an upset. After all, champions such as Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Bill Elliott topped the entry list. Former Indy 500 winners A.J. Foyt and Danny Sullivan rounded out the field.
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"I don't think anyone thought we were the favorite coming in," said Ray Evernham, who won four Cup championships as the crew chief for the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "The big equalizer that day — that made me feel like we had a shot and could be legitimate contenders — is that no one had raced here before.
"I thought if we could prepare the car — and we had as much testing as everybody else — even though the guys like Rusty and Dale had a lot more experience, none of the other crew chiefs and none of the other drivers had any experience here. That gave us a better shot."
Still, Gordon was just a kid. "The Kid," according to Earnhardt, and Gordon had just one win prior to Indy, in the Coca-Cola 600. And Earnhardt desperately wanted the first Brickyard 400 trophy.
"They were an underdog coming in," said Andy Petree, who was Earnhardt's crew chief at the time. "That was the first time they asserted themselves. It was the first time they threw the gauntlet down and said, 'Hey, we are a force to be reckoned with.'"