CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Jeff Gordon cut his teeth racing winged sprint cars before making a move to stock cars, launching what has become one of the most prolific careers in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.
Saturday night, Sept. 17, this legacy comes full circle when Atomic Speedway located in Chillicothe, Ohio, hosts Jeff Gordon Night. Gordon is scheduled to return to the high banks of Atomic Speedway where he won his first sprint car race at the age of 14.
“This is a great honor for all of us to have Jeff Gordon back at Atomic Speedway,” said track owner Brad McCown. “It is an even greater honor to be able to honor ‘in person’ one of the greatest drivers in racing history.
“We are looking forward to this opportunity and at the same time, offer race fans a chance to see one of the best drivers of all time. And of course, we will have a great night of racing as well. Who knows? Maybe another young star get inspired and begin another chapter of racing history!”
The 1985 season saw Gordon compete in sprint cars for the first time at the tender age of 13. With the move to sprint cars and age restrictions in California, Gordon’s parents moved to Indiana to help further Jeff’s career. He raced at tracks primarily in Ohio and the surrounding areas. One of his favorite stops became Atomic Speedway.
Promoters, track owners, and insurance folks thought it was too big of a risk to let 13-year-old Jeff Gordon race on their tracks, even with the ability he had displayed in quarter midgets and karts. Jeff’s parents appealed to the racing insurance companies and their persistence paid off, however, some tracks still weren’t willing to take a risk on the young driver.
Where would the racing world be today if Dave and Eleanor Karshner, the owner/promoters of then K-C Raceway (Atomic) would not have taken a chance and let Jeff race his sprint at the Chillicothe track in 1985. The Karshner’s saw Jeff’s talent and accepted his presence with open-arms. One year later, the track was the site of Jeff’s first sprint car victory. From that point on Jeff claimed several other wins at Atomic including multiple wins in 1988.
Gordon’s success in winged and non-winged sprint cars helped open the door for NASCAR owners to look not only outside of NASCAR, but to the world of open wheel racing.
Saturday, Sept. 17, Atomic will honor Gordon, who will be in attendance to accept a token of the track’s appreciation and induction into the 2016 Atomic Speedway Hall of Fame. Prior commitments did not allow Gordon to attend the original hall of fame ceremony. The rest of the evening Gordon plans to just sit back and “enjoy the racing”!
On the race card for “Jeff Gordon Night” will be 410 Sprints, AMRA Late Models, AMRA Modifieds, AMRA Sport Mods and an Enduro.
Gates will open at 4 p.m., with Hot Laps starting at 6 p.m. Adult admission is $15, kids under 12 years old are free. For more information, call 740-703-9749 or visit the Atomic Speedway website at www.atomicspeedway.net.