Long before Jeff Gordon was a member of the NASCAR Hall of Famer and one of the greatest stock car racers in history, he was a young spearhead who excelled on the short tracks of Indiana and Midwest against the best the United States Auto Club (USAC) had to offer. While Gordon’s racing heritage was forged with fenders instead of open-wheel cars, Gordon has never forgotten the racing discipline he came from – and is ready to show he still has it. behind the wheel of the cars he grew up in.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced on Wednesday that Jeff Gordon will serve as the honorary starter for the first night of next week’s Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink on the speedway’s quarter-mile dirt track. As part of his dignitary duties, Gordon will get behind the wheel of a USAC miniature car prepared by Clauson Marshall Racing and complete several show laps before the start of the Stoops Pursuit race, for which he will wave the green flag.
It will be the first time in nearly 30 years that Gordon has driven a miniature car in front of a crowd. Gordon was a young phenomenon in the USAC ranks before his NASCAR career began in the early 1990s, winning USAC National Midget Series Rookie of the Year honors in 1989 before becoming National Midget Series Champion in 1990 and Silver Crown Series Champion in 1991.
“Like so many others, gravel racing has played a huge role in my racing career so it was very special to have the opportunity to do a few laps recently on The Dirt Track at IMS,” said Gordon. in a Speedway press release. “I had forgotten how fun it was to slide a dirt dwarf down a quarter mile dirt track. With the BC39 coming up, it creates a great opportunity to come back and start over.
“I’m very grateful to everyone at IMS for making this possible, and I’m delighted to be the honorary first night starter. I’m also grateful to my longtime friend Tim Clauson and Clauson Marshall Racing for providing me with a great car to drive. It’s going to be a fun night! “
Gordon’s car will be adorned with the logos of Driven2SaveLives as well as the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, which supports children with pediatric cancer and their families. Driven2SaveLives, part of the Indiana Donor Network, is an organ, tissue and eye donation awareness program created in honor of two remarkable runners.
Driven2SaveLives began in honor of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who died after being hit on the head by flying debris during a race at Pocono in 2015. A registered organ donor, Wilson was able to save the life of five people after his death, and his brother Stefan piloted the Driven2SaveLives program at the Indianapolis 500 the following year.
In August 2016, Bryan Clauson – an accomplished midget racer who competed in three Indianapolis 500s as well as a brief stint in NASCAR – also saved five lives as an organ donor after being killed in a racing accident. BC39 is named in his honor, and the Driven2SaveLives program continues its work to encourage running fans to register as organ donors.
While his path beyond USAC led him to NASCAR instead of IndyCar, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has nonetheless become a central part of Gordon’s decorated career. Gordon is the most successful driver in NASCAR Brickyard 400 history, including the first ever staged in 1994.