Roughly 500 miles away from the bright lights of Charlotte Motor Speedway, the longest Super Late Model race of the season is set to kick off in Winchester, Indiana in the Winchester 400.
Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will not be participating in the Winchester 400 but he is a former entrant, having made his Super Late Model debut during the 1992 event for owner Mike Laughlin. It would turn out to be his only start in a pavement Late Model and it did not go well as the then 20-year-old crashed after 172 laps of 400.
All Gordon remembers is that something broke.
“I know we didn’t have a good race,” Gordon recalled. “Something broke in that race. I think I drove for Mike Laughlin and that was a neat opportunity. I obviously didn’t grow up running full-bodied stock cars and at the time and I was looking to do a lot more of it.”
Gordon had competed at Winchester countless times, typically in a Sprint or Midget car. But at the time, Gordon was in the midst of his first full Nationwide Series season for Bill Davis Racing and was looking to get as much seat time in a stock car as possible and the Winchester 400 just made sense.
“When someone gives you an opportunity to drive their car, you said yes,” Gordon said. “You did it. I drove all sorts of things. I drove Supermodifieds up in New Hampshire and in the Northeast. I think that was the only Late Model race I’ve ever driven.”
Gordon enjoyed the experience but would have changed one thing about the Super Late Models of that era.
“It didn’t have enough power,” Gordon said. “It was a lightweight car and had good corner speed but it didn’t have a lot of power. And everything I had driven had a good amount of power.”
Regardless, Gordon is proof that you never know which Super Late Model drivers will stick around and achieve greatness in the upper echelon of NASCAR competition. The defending race winner is Erik Jones and previous winners include Ross Kenseth, Chase Elliott and Mark Martin.