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Gordon on Racing: ‘I’m Shocked We’re 11th’

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 25 2010

Jeff Gordon has two careers going these days – driver and father. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a three-part series in which RacinToday.com’s Rick Minter talks with four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon. During a sit-down interview conducted last weekend, Minter and Gordon had a wide-ranging talk about everything from racing cars to rearing children. Today, Gordon weighs in on the current season, parenthood,  points racing and his place in NASCAR history.

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Jeff Gordon was asked how he and NASCAR, with their 500-mile races, are adapting to a fast-paced world in which social networking and other ways of instant communication are wildly popular.

“I don’t do Twitter or Facebook,” he said. “Maybe I should.”

Gordon said he tends to rely on NASCAR and its marketing people to guide the sport through periods of change. But he is willing to try some new things.

“Sometimes something comes across my desk, and I say ‘Let’s do it,’” he said.

He said there are a few things that have surprised him in the first few weeks of 2010.

“I’m shocked we’re  11th (in the points standings),” he said. “We’ve performed fantastic but haven’t had results. I’m excited how it’s gone. We have a lot we’re capable of doing. The Childress cars have definitely stepped up. When you’re looking at who we’re going to have to compete with for the championship, we look at the Childress cars. Jimmie you can’t count out, and Kasey Kahne or Matt Kenseth.”

And he was queried about whether there’s too much emphasis on the Chase and points chasing?

“I don’t think so,” he said. “The emphasis is still on each individual race. At this point in the season we’re not focused on the top 12. We’re doing what we feel like we need to do to get in position to win the championship.

“I don’t know what the media is all focused on, but I think they’re focused on who’s fast that weekend, and who’s going to win the race and oh, by the way here’s where the points are. I think it’s something that adds to the race weekend that we didn’t use to focus on.”

With Gordon and his wife expecting their second child, a boy, I asked him how he felt about one of his children following him into the sport and about how difficult it would be for that child to always be measured against a father who was one of the all-time greats.

“I just look at my experience,” he said. “Things just lined up. I was so fortunate. Regardless of talent, you’ve got to have a lot of things happen to get to this level and to have the success I’ve had at this level. For that to happen again to somebody in my family is a lot to ask for, a lot of pressure and tough.”

He said he was going to try to raise his kids the way his parents raised him.

“I just happened to find racing early on, and they recognized it and pursued it,” he said. “If that happens to my son or daughter, I’m going to do the same thing. But I want to present as many options to them as possible to help them find their passion.”

My last question concerned Gordon’s place on the all-time career win list. He’s now at 82 Cup wins, sixth on the all-time list but just one behind Cale Yarborough and two behind Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison. Three more wins would put him in sole possession of third place behind Richard Petty and David Pearson.

“It’s a little frustrating that we’ve been at 82 as long as we have and 81 as long as we were,” he said “I felt like we were going to click off quite a few last year after we won the Texas race and then we didn’t. And I feel like this year we’re so capable of getting multiple wins.

“But you just never know when that next win is going to come. When you’re this close to 84 or 85, you’d like to get ahead of those guys. But if I don’t I’m very pleased with what I’ve accomplished. I didn’t think I’d ever be at 50, or even 30, so to be over here at 82 feels pretty darn good.

“I just want to win. It doesn’t matter to me how many we end up with. I just want to keep on winning.”

With the start of practice looming, I shut off my temperamental tape recorders and prepared to leave. But Gordon didn’t shoo me away before we took a few minutes to reminisce about some of the lighter moments we’ve shared over the years.

I thanked him for his time that day and for all his help in years past.

As I walked out into the pit area at Bristol, I didn’t feel nearly as grumpy as I have at times recently.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 25 2010
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