How Jeff Gordon’s Banned T-Rex Car Was Accidentally Produced by Hendrick Motorsports

Published 01/01/2022, 12:12 PM EST


Back in 1997, the Hendrick Motorsports team enacted a bold plan on an experimental chassis. That car ran for one race and absolutely dominated the proceedings. What also made the car stand out from the rest was that it was promoting the 1997 blockbuster movie, The Lost World: Jurassic Park. To do this, the #24 car of Jeff Gordon had the movie’s iconic T-Rex plastered on the hood of the car.

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Fondly nicknamed the T-Rex, the car had a few issues from the beginning. It was until a test session at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the game changed dramatically. Apparently, Ray Evernham happened to discover a useful trick for the car to hand them an advantage. As per his findings, sealing the front bumper of the car yielded more aerodynamic downforce.

CONCORD, NC – OCTOBER 11: Wife Ingrid Vandebosch (L) and Jeff Gordon (R), driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, wait by his car before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on October 11, 2008 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

So, when the car entered the 1997 All-Star Race, Jeff Gordon was unstoppable. As a result, he coolly pocketed the $1,000,000 prize money. Afterward, NASCAR smelt a rat and promptly banned the car, changing the rule book as well.

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What did Evernham say about that Hendrick Motorsports car?

Evernham confessed, “It ran one race, it dominated that race, and was banned by NASCAR. That part of it’s true. Jeff rolls into the garage, he flips up his helmet, his eyes are about this big – he’s like, ‘What was that?’ If it wasn’t for Jeff Gordon driving that car, it might still be legal. It was just a really well-built race car that Jeff Gordon decided to put his foot to the floor at the height of his career and just smoked those guys.

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According to him, most of the Cup cars were built indestructible. However, he changed the game by focusing on making the car lighter. In addition to that, he also heavily exploited the aerodynamic factor and changed a few materials. For example, he substituted the titanium hub with a different material, and it was quite expensive. The team also used an aluminum driveshaft, hollow axles, lighter gears, and other parts.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JULY 22: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #88 Axalta Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

When they tested it, nothing seemed to work. However, once Jeff Gordon was at the wheel, he was merely half a second off of another of their Chassis. That was when Evernham decided that he had nothing to lose and he took a massive gamble. He changed a few parameters, which worried the team a little, especially in terms of driver safety.

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Once Gordon was on the track, the car was a completely different beast. Now with an ace in the hole, the team headed to Charlotte and Gordon qualified well. Unfortunately, he overshot the pit lane, and it relegated him to the back. However, that mattered little to Gordon, who drove like a demon and pocketed $1,000,000. Then, NASCAR rewrote the rules after the race, and that was that.

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Dhruv George

12519 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Motorsports author for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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