When he was 4 years old, Gordon rode a BMX bike that his stepfather bought for him and began racing quarter midgets at the age of five. The Roy Hayer Memorial Race Track (previously the Cracker Jack Track) in Rio Linda, California is noted as the first track Gordon ever competed on. By the age of six Gordon had won 35 main events and set five track records.
In 1979, Gordon won 51 quarter midget races. When he was 11, Gordon won all 25 of his karting races. At age 12, Gordon became bored with cars and decided to start a career in waterskiing before switching back to driving one year later. In 1986, Gordon began racing sprint cars, winning three races. The next year, Gordon was awarded a USAC license at age 16, the youngest driver to do so.
Quarter Midget racing is a form of automobile racing. The cars are approximately one quarter (1/4) the size of a full size midget car. The adult size midget being raced during the start of quarter midget racing, used an oval track of one fifth of a mile in length.
The child's quarter midget track is one quarter that length, or 1/20th mile. An adult size midget in the 1940s and 1950s could reach 120 miles per hour, while the single cylinder 7 cubic inch quarter midget engine could make available a speed of 30 miles per hour In a rookie class (Called novices), or one quarter the speed of the adult car.
Most of the competitive classes run speeds near 45 miles per hour. Current upper class quarter midgets can exceed 45 miles per hour, but remain safe due to the limited size of the track.