For as long as I can remember, every Sunday afternoon my dad and I have had three things: popcorn, naps and Jeff Gordon.
I can’t remember the first time I watched a Winston Cup NASCAR race. I don’t know who won and I don’t know where they were racing. What I do know is that one car caught my eye, a rainbow blur circling the track at impossibly fast speeds. I didn’t know what DuPont was, and I’m not sure I know even now, but the No. 24 car was instantly my favorite.
Behind the wheel was a youthful Jeff Gordon, a young gun there to challenge the good old boys, The King Richard Petty (dad’s favorite), Bill Elliott (mom’s favorite in his yellow Peanut M&Ms car)1, and Dale Earnhart (the original always better than Junior).
And if the rainbow car wasn’t enough to win me over, the 2001 Fritos commercial featuring Jeff — or Jeffy as my dad and I sarcastically (him), yet endearingly (me) nicknamed him — speeding by on a lawnmower and powering through War and Peace to eat Fritos Chili and Scoops with his then-wife Brooke really sealed the deal.
A Fruit Loop box colored car and a wife that shared my name? I didn’t stand a chance. I was destined to be Jeff Gordon fan for life.
And when he won his first race in 1994, it was less than 50 miles away at the Coca Cola 600.
See? I was doomed from the beginning.