Jeff Gordon Returns to Northern California for Homecoming Tour
Jeff Gordon's racing career came full circle on Saturday, as the NASCAR legend returned to his racing roots in Northern California for a memorable "homecoming tour."
Gordon took advantage of a rare off weekend on the NASCAR schedule to take a walk down memory lane with his wife, Ingrid, and children, Ella and Leo. The visit included a stop at the Rio Linda quarter-midget track where he first raced, as well as the middle school he attended in Vallejo.
The Vallejo native and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion will step away from full-time driving after the 2015 season, bringing a close to his remarkable 23-year NASCAR career. Gordon will take his final green flag at Sonoma Raceway as a full-time Sprint Cup Series driver at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 next Sunday, June 28.
The Gordon family began the day at Roy Hayer Memorial Speedway in Rio Linda, where Jeff first got behind the wheel of a race car at age five, under the watchful eye of his step father, John Bickford. The 1/20-mile track is home to the Capitol Quarter Midget Association, which has long played a part in quarter-midget racing for kids in Northern California.
"When you look around Rio Linda, this is really where Jeff got his start, and this is where he came from," said Bickford. "Now, he's like the ambassador for this sport. Becoming a professional driver is what all of these kids want to do. Every one of these kids racing quarter-midgets today wants to race in Indianapolis or the Daytona 500 someday, and he achieved that."
Gordon and his family toured the 61-year old facility, visited with young racers and took part in pre-race ceremonies. It marked the first time Gordon had visited the facility in more than 30 years. His daughter, Ella, is in the early stages of her own quarter-midget racing career, complete with a bright pink, piranha paint scheme.
"Rio Linda was the first place that I ever drove a race car on the track, and I won a lot of races there and made a lot of friends. I don't know what life would be like for me today if it weren't for Rio Linda," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet. "It's great to see that the kids are still out there today. It's such a great sport."
Gordon also paid a visit to the former Springstowne Middle School (now Vallejo Charter School) in Vallejo, which he attended. Gordon was born in Vallejo and lived in Northern California until he was 14 years old.
Gordon was welcomed by nearly 200 students and their families for a question-and-answer session in the quad of the middle school. Gordon talked with the students about growing up in Vallejo, as well as his racing career and family.
"It was awesome to see Jeff Gordon. He's won a lot of races and it's so cool that he's from Vallejo," said Anthony Fernandez, 8, who attends Dan Mini Elementary School
Gordon was also presented with proclamations and gifts from U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson (Calif. 5th Congressional District), Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan, Vallejo Vice Mayor "Jess" Malgapo and Vallejo City Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Ramona Bishop.
"Just walking through the halls and around this campus brings back a lot of memories and a lot of friends that I haven't seen in a long time. In fact, I remember break dancing in one of these halls," said Gordon about his visit to the middle school. "It's been phenomenal."
Gordon returns to the 10-turn Sonoma Raceway road course next weekend, June 26-28, looking to add a sixth win in Sonoma and 93rd win of his career to his impressive resume. He is the undisputed king of the wine country road course with five victories (1998-2000, '04, '06), five pole positions (1998-99, '01, '04, '05) and 17 top-10 finishes - all the most of any NASCAR driver in Sonoma. He also holds the record for most laps completed (2,227 of 2,551 laps) and the most races led at 12.
For more information about the Toyota/Save Mart 350 or to purchase your tickets for Gordon's last race in Sonoma as a full-time driver, visit www.racesonoma.com/nascar or call 800-870-7223.