News & Media

Gordon unscathed after wild ride in Shootout

February 19, 2012, David Caraviello,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- His neck is a little stiff from his impact with the wall. One shin banged against an area inside the car that wasn't padded, but will be in the future. He cut one of his fingers trying to climb out of his upside-down vehicle. But beyond that, Jeff Gordon emerged remarkably unscathed from his dramatic tumbling accident in the final laps of Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.

Hang on tight

Jeff Gordon went for a wild ride after contact with Kurt Busch sent the No. 24 tumbling in the Budweiser Shootout.

"It's just a testament to the safety of these cars," Gordon said Sunday after his qualifying attempt for the Daytona 500. The previous evening his effort to claim the season-opening exhibition ended when he made contact with eventual winner Kyle Busch, sparking an eight-car accident on the penultimate lap that took out many of the leaders. But nobody got it worse than Gordon, whose No. 24 car hit the outside wall, slid on its side down to the apron, flipped three times, and came to rest on its roof.

Gordon's window net was down before emergency personnel arrived, and he spent the next few minutes wriggling his way out of the capsized vehicle. Rescue crews were prepared to turn the car over to make Gordon's exit easier, but the driver didn't want to wait.

"You've got the adrenalin from the race, the adrenalin from the wreck," Gordon said. "I remember sliding on my door, going 'Man, how am I going to get out of this thing if it comes to a stop like this?' And then it starts to turn and flip, and I go, 'Uh-oh. I don't have to worry about being on my door.'

"Then you hold on tight and go, 'Please don't land on its roof.' And what does it do, it lands on its roof. There's no doubt there's disorientation, there's adrenalin. I wish more than anything I would have listened to the safety workers to tell me let's wait and turn it over. But at that time, you have steam and fluids and everything else around you, and you know it's going to take a few minutes longer, and you're hanging upside down. So I wanted to get out of it. I'm a little guy. I feel like I could do it, and I did. But let me tell you, it was a lot of work. It didn't go smooth."

"[Ella's] first question was, 'Were you OK?'"


Gordon said the wreck occurred because he was trying to push Busch, but the two couldn't get connected, and he got too aggressive and got into the No. 18 car's left-rear -- contact of the kind that started many of the accidents that unfolded Saturday night. Don't be surprised if there's more aggression on display this season from Gordon, who says he doesn't want to leave more race wins on the table like he did on occasion last season.

"This is one of the things you're going to see a lot more from me this year. We're going to be aggressive," said Gordon, who won three times in 2011. "I've got an awesome race team, and a car capable of winning races, and I felt like we should have won more races last year than we did. I don't want to let those opportunities slip away, and I feel like we're going to try to make some opportunities as well."

Gordon was sixth-fastest in front-row qualifying Sunday for the Daytona 500. Before that, though, he had a talk with his young daughter Ella Sofia about the scary ride her father had taken one night earlier.

"She was asleep when that all happened," Gordon said. "When she woke up this morning, I told her what happened and I showed it to her on TV. Her first question was, 'Were you OK?' And obviously with me sitting there and her sitting on my lap, I could explain to her how I was, and she could watch it. That is the downside to being a race-car driver when things like that happen. I think maybe had she been awake and heard the reaction of my wife, then that probably would have gotten her more concerned than anything else."