Need for Speed


Jeff Gordon’s need for speed showed up almost as soon as he could balance a bicycle. Gordon would fly down the hill near his California home, only to scramble back up to the top to begin his descent again.

Gordon, now 24, has moved past bicycles. He’s at the top of the auto racing world, winning the 1995 National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) championship.

His rainbow-colored No. 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo can travel nearly 200 miles per hour in races as long as 600 miles.

(The bodies of stock cars resemble the street cars that most people drive, but they have only one seat, a souped-up engine and much more safety equipment.

Early Success

need-for-speed-2Gordon knows how to get places in a hurry.

He started competing in organized bicycle races when he was 4. But he quickly moved to quarter-midgets, small racers with engines about as powerful as lawnmowers.

In Gordon’s second year of racing quarter-midgets he won 36 races. At age 8, he won a national championship. He followed up with a second national title, eventually branching out into go-carts and sprint cars.

By the time Gordon was 16, he was beating drivers more than twice his age.

Title Teamwork

Gordon earned rookie-of-the-year honors on the top NASCAR circuit in 1993. He became the first rookie in 30 years and the youngest driver ever to win a qualifying race for the Daytona 500.

In 1995, Gordon became the youngest NASCAR season points winner in 45 years.

Gordon gives the credit to his crew.

“I’ve had to learn a lot of things very quickly,” Gordon says, “and I try to learn from [my] mistakes. You’ve got to fight hard to win a championship, and we all did it as a team together.”

Pinball Wizard

If Gordon isn’t racing, you’ll probably find him playing video and pinball games. A trading card company even issued a card of Gordon–not driving, but playing pinball.

He often competes against fans in video racing games. For a TV news program, Gordon once squared off against a video-gamer who had won a nationwide contest. Competing in a best-of-seven series on a racing game, Gordon won, 4-2.

Face it, the kid can’t be beaten.

Jeff Gordon At a Glance

need-for-speed-3Born: Aug. 4, 1971, Vallejo, Calif.

Lives: Charlotte, N.C.

Height: 5 feet 7 inches.

Weight: 150 lbs.

Career highlights: Finished first in NASCAR points standings and money winnings in 1995; won 7 races and 23 times finished in the top 10; earned a record $4.3 million. In 1994, he won the first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600.

Race car: Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

Personal vehicle: Chevrolet Blazer.

Address: c/o Hendrick Motorsports, P.O. Box 9, Harrisburg, NC 28075.

Get in Gear and Make It Go Scout Program: Mechanics

From a bike to a midget-racer to a 180-mile-an-hour NASCAR rocket, Jeff Gordon has long had mechanics figured out in a fast way. Knowing how machines work best has helped put him in the victory lane time and again.

You also can learn what makes things go–and maybe get a better idea of what it’s like to roar around a superspeedway like Daytona or Talladega.

Scouts whose troops pick next month’s suggested program them of Mechanics will get hands-on experience making things work. Scouts can build bikes, car engines, even pioneering projects. It can be anything that does something.

Find complete details in the troop program features book, “Woods Wisdom” (BSA Supply No. 34251). Then get in gear and learn all you can about mechanics.

Who knows? You just might find yourself one day taking the checkered flag and rolling into victory lane.

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