Jeff Gordon's advice to drivers: Fans want to see the 'true you'

Jeff Gordon’s career as a NASCAR broadcaster has proved to be an “eye-opener” in at least one respect.

Jeff Gordon's advice to drivers: Fans want to see the 'true you'
Jeff Gordon signs autographs for his fans
Fans thank Jeff Gordon
Fan gathering outside the garage of Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Fans sign memoribilia for the retiring Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
French fans of Jeff Gordon
Kevin Harvick takes the checkred flag ahead of Jeff Gordon

In a recent interview with Motorsport.com regarding his decision to sign a contract extension with Fox Sports, Gordon said his move to the broadcast booth has helped shed a new light on one aspect of a driver’s career.

“The biggest eye-opener for me or that I wished I had paid more attention to or had this perspective when I was driving, is how just how much people resonate with a driver’s personality,” Gordon, 47, said.

I think what really drew people to (NASCAR) were these characters and personalities.

Jeff Gordon

“So often as a driver you are caught up in the competition. Everything is about winning or getting a better finish. And you think if I just perform better the sponsors will come, if I perform better then I’ll have more fans or I’ll keep my ride or whatever.

“But there is much more to showing your personality. It doesn’t mean you have to be entertaining all the time, it’s just people want to see the ‘true you.’ They want to get to know you as a person as well as a race car driver.”

Gordon, who will won four championships in the NASCAR Cup Series and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next month, said many drivers – himself included at one point – tend to be very guarded, preferring not to open themselves to potential criticism.

“I think we lose a little bit there,” he said. “I look back at the characters and personalities that built the sport. And while there were some great race car drivers and great racing action on the track, I think what really drew people to it here these characters and personalities.

“I feel like we’ve gotten to the point where there is so much business, there is much money involved in getting a car on the track and getting a team together that the corporate side has made drivers less open to showing us who they really are.”

Embracing the role

Gordon said drivers at times embraced the roles fans thrust them into, even when it may not truly represent the type of person they were.

“Even Dale Earnhardt Sr., he wasn’t necessarily a guy that you would say that would play up to a character or play this role, he was not that kind of person,” Gordon said. “But he recognized – in part because he had an incredible fan base that gave him confidence – he could do things to show that side of him and his fans would embrace it for the most part.

“For Darrell (Waltrip), I think it was part of his personality and he had the ability to back it up on the track and he went with it. A lot of people embraced it – not everybody – but it was entertaining.

“It brought a lot to fans. You had people who wanted to see the race but also they couldn’t wait to see his interview after to see if he was mad or happy or this or that; what’s he going to say about what happened on the track?”

Gordon, who amassed his own sizable fan base while marking to a remarkable career that included 93 Cup series wins, said he initially found it difficult to share his personality.

“Later in my career, I started to open up more. Early in my career, I was very much like, ‘I don’t want to get overly analyzed or criticized’ or ‘I just want to say the right thing,’ ” he said.

“Later in life you realize I can still say things to reveal who I am more and not necessarily lose sponsors. It becomes something that has a little bit of an art to it.”

shares
comments
Full schedule for 2019 Daytona Speedweeks

Previous article

Full schedule for 2019 Daytona Speedweeks

Next article

J.D. Gibbs Legacy Fund established in honor of JGR co-founder

J.D. Gibbs Legacy Fund established in honor of JGR co-founder
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Author Jim Utter
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020