Hendrick Motorsports figures take questions, talk futures
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham, one of the most potent driver/crew chief combinations in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history, could be working together once again.
Not on the race track, however.
Speaking to a small group of fans Feb. 21 during a special SIRIUS XM Town Hall program at Daytona International Speedway, Gordon, Evernham and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick touched on a number of subjects during an hour-long program, from their early days in the sport to what the future might hold for each.
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"Racing is always going to be a part of my life and I want to be at the race track."
-- Jeff Gordon
“I certainly can check off owning a team,” said Gordon, a four-time series champion and winner of 87 Cup races. “As long as Rick doesn’t mind me being a partner with him, that’s as far as I want to go. I’ve learned enough being partners with Rick that I know I don’t want to … own my own team.
“Ray keeps trying to talk me into getting in the (TV) booth one day.”
“People want a reunion,” Evernham said. “Yeah, on TV.”
For nearly eight years, Gordon and Evernham were paired together at Hendrick Motorsports. When Evernham departed late in 1999, the duo had won three Cup titles and 47 races. Among the wins were a pair of Daytona 500 victories and the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Today, Evernham works as a race analyst for ESPN and holds a position as a consultant with Hendrick for the group’s automotive endeavors outside of racing.
“That’s possible,” Gordon said moving to the broadcast booth. “Racing is part of my life. I love the race track, I love coming to the race track. I do have two young kids that very possibly could be in a race car as well one day.
“Racing is always going to be a part of my life and I want to be at the race track. I want to be making a difference some way, some how, in the racing community, whether it’s working with Rick at Hendrick Motorsports or whether it’s possibly in the booth. That could be fun as well.”
Such a move would not be difficult for Gordon, who has proven to be as at ease in front of the camera as he has been inside a race car.
Now 41, Gordon avoids “the R word” but admits, “I know I’m getting closer.
“I’ve got a lot more gray. You go through a year like we had in 1998 where you win 13 races, then you don’t win as many, then you start questioning it. You go ‘what is it? Is the team not capable? Am I not capable?’ Those things drive and inspire me as well. Now I have kids and that inspires me to a whole other level.
“Rick has been so good to me. I never dreamed things would go the way they have at Hendrick Motorsports for me. Now I feel like it’s my duty not only as a driver but beyond that to do everything I can to see HMS succeed and excel.”
Other subjects on which the trio touched:
• On visiting Daytona International Speedway for the first time:
“When I came through the tunnel,” Hendrick said, “ I thought ‘I shouldn’t be here.’ We didn’t have a sponsor … it was an intimidating situation to see Junior Johnson and the Wood Brothers and all those guys.”
“I remember driving by the speedway -- I was racing out at Volusia in a Sprint car and we drove by and I was just in awe,” Gordon said. “To me, the speedway was beyond even a dream that I’d ever get the opportunity to race here, let alone win three Daytona 500s.”
• On Gordon’s nickname:
“He had this little, I don’t know what kind of face it was, kind of pouty,” Hendrick said. “If you got him in the (race) car before 10 in the morning, his nickname was Crankshaft, because he whined.”
“We also had another nickname for him,” Evernham said. “The last five laps we used to call him the Money Man. He was Jeff Gordon most of the time, he was Crankshaft Henderson in the morning, but when it was time to get the job done all you had to do was get the leaders in sight and we used to say ‘the Money Man is here.’ ”
“I had a lot of growing up to do,” Gordon said, laughing. “When I look back at some interviews and … some of these moments, I think ‘Wow.’ I didn’t realize just how young I was and how arrogant I was and just how much growing up I needed to do. Look at me now, I’ve got two kids and I’m getting up at 6:15 every morning.
“But I’m still Crankshaft.”
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