By Paul Woody - Richmond Times-Dispatch

Millions know Jeff Gordon as one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history.

Millions know him for his long career, his four championships at NASCAR’s highest level, his 92 victories and $150 million in winnings.

They know him for his 23 full years of racing at the Cup level and for going from the young upstart attempting to unseat such venerable drivers as Dale Earnhardt Sr., Bill Elliott and Darrell Waltrip, to the beloved veteran who has done so much to bring new fans into the NASCAR garage.

But there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, whose lives Gordon has affected who either don’t know him or know him only as a race car driver who for some reason has tried to make a true difference in their lives.

Gordon, 44, is in his final season of NASCAR. He is on a farewell tour, and is in town for the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

But long ago, and not so far away, he decided he would try to be more than just a NASCAR driver who occasionally did a good deed for a sick child or adult.

Gordon decided to try to change the world.

It’s not a small task, but Gordon likes nothing more than a challenge, competition and a goal that seems impossible to meet.

“Before I even got in the Cup series, I visited some hospitals, and I remember thinking, ‘Why am I doing this? What can I possibly contribute?’” Gordon said recently. “Then you walk into a room and the family and kids are there, going through things you can’t possibly imagine. And yet you walk in and you see them light up and see the smile on their faces when you tell them you’re a race car driver.

“And you show them a card of your car and you realize it takes their mind off what the doctor’s been telling them or procedures they’ve been through, and you realize you can make an impact.

“That was my first introduction and first understanding that being a race car driver at this level puts you in position to have an opportunity to help and change people’s lives in a positive way. Then, I think it becomes...


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