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Gordon Trades Driving For Talking At Daytona 500

| Senior Correspondent, RacinToday.com Friday, February 19 2016
Jeff Gordon's days as a NASCAR driver are over while his days as a television analyst are just beginning. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Jeff Gordon’s days as a NASCAR driver are over while his days as a television analyst are just beginning. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Mark Armijo | Senior Correspondent

Come Sunday in the always intriguing Daytona 500, Jeff Gordon again will have a bird’s-eye view of the starting line, just as he did a year ago when he manned the pole position.

Except this season, Gordon won’t be staring down the green flag from the driver’s seat. Gordon, who sprint-logo-08retired following the 2015 season after a celebrated 24-year NASCAR Sprint Cup series career in a Rick Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, instead will be perched in a Fox Sports announcer’s booth high above famed Daytona International Speedway.

Gordon, the former superstar driver, is now Gordon the NASCAR television analyst, a position in which he also may one day star based on positive reviews following past appearances in numerous television gigs such as host of “Saturday Night Live” and a 10-time co-host of “Live! With Regis and Kelly.”

Gordon is more than ready.

“I’m an opinionated person and I’m looking forward to sharing those opinions,” said Gordon, who will team with co-analyst Darrell Waltrip, who is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy.

Gordon is the newest member in a specialized fraternity of former drivers or crew chiefs now working on the broadcast side, a list that includes others such as NBC’s Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte, and ESPN’s Ricky Craven.

Gordon’s transition should be seamless, many agree.

“Jeff can do anything he wants to,” NBC analyst Kyle Petty said. “You could see that whenever he filled in for Regis or was on Saturday Night Live. He stepped in like he’s done (TV) his whole life. He’s smart, articulate. Going from the driver’s seat to the TV booth, he’ll never miss a beat. I honestly believe in a lot of ways it’s going to become the Jeff Gordon show. He’s going to embarrass us all.”

Burton, however, who along with Letarte just completed his first season as an NBC analyst, believes the road won’t be as smooth as some might believe.

“I think his transition is going to be more difficult. He went from
driving a race car in November, being greatly celebrated and competing
for a championship to taking about it three months later,” Burton
said. “I had the benefit of a year and a half between when I stopped
being a fulltime driver to calling races. Jeff hasn’t had as much time
to get into that TV mode. That presents some challenges.

“Having said all that, he brings a perspective to our sport that is fresh and from right out of the last season. He can be exceptionally honest because is just fresh out of the driver’s seat. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Hendrick relationship because he doesn’t drive for him anymore and he’s no longer a teammate of Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (and Kasey Kahne).

“I drove (nine) seasons for Jack Roush and if it wasn’t for him (Roush) I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you today. But you have to divorce yourself from those things. Their performance was subpar last year and it was hard for me to talk about it. But you can’t ignore it.”

Gordon said he is prepared.

“My goal is to interpret what I see and what I think, and not have an emotion tied to it,” he said. “Just be as honest as possible. That’s the way I do all my interviews and the way I live my life.”

Johnson believes Gordon eventually will excel off the track as he did on it.

“When he gets a couple of races under his belt he’ll be a pro like he is in everything else,” said Johnson, a six-time driving champion. “He can be outspoken. But knowing Jeff and his morals and what he’s about, he’s going to be fair. I’m sure he will be in many positions of sensitive topics and he’ll find a way to convey a fair message.”

Danica Patrick is in the Johnson and Petty camp when it comes to assessing Gordon’s future after racing.

“He’ll bring a driver aspect to it and a perspective like (Burton) did,” Patrick said. “Something current. I think people are going to love to see that because it’s so trustworthy. There’s no distance between him and the experience of doing it (driving). People love Jeff Gordon. I love Jeff Gordon. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid and I’m sure he’s going to be great.”

| Senior Correspondent, RacinToday.com Friday, February 19 2016
One Comment

One Comment »

  • John Sturbin says:

    Mr. Armijo? Didn’t you used to be somebody at the Arizona Republic? Thought so.
    Anyway, Sir Jeff did well as rookie analyst of “The Great American Race,” although he told us how excited he was to be in the booth a couple times too many.
    As for the coverage, typical pre-race overkill. FOX and NASCAR need to eliminate Jamie Little and Michael Waltrip doing that moronic “Grid Walk,” during which nobody wants to talk to them as they prance down pit lane like a couple of fools.