NASCAR Race Hub Airs Special Jeff Gordon NASCAR Hall of Fame Episode
Gordon in NASCAR RACE HUB Studio for First Reaction Following Announcement
Hendrick, Evernham, Gustafson, Joy, Waltrip & McReynolds Excerpts Included Below
In honor of four-time NASCAR CUP SERIES champion and FOX NASCAR analyst Jeff Gordon being voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame today, NASCAR RACE HUB is devoting tonight’s entire one-hour show to the occasion (6:00 PM ET on FS1). Gordon will join NASCAR RACE HUB in-studio at 6:00 PM ET for his first comments following the announcement.
Afterward, a prominent list of individuals key to Gordon’s driving and broadcasting career will appear on the program, co-hosted by Adam Alexander and Shannon Spake, including Rick Hendrick, Ray Evernham, Alan Gustafson, Andy Papathanassiou, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Mike Joy. Additionally, NASCAR RACE HUB will air special feature interviews with Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Ken Schrader, Chad Knaus, Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Gordon’s family.
Below are excerpts from tonight’s NASCAR RACE HUB interviews with Hendrick, Evernham and Gustafson, as well as Gordon’s FOX NASCAR on-air teammates Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds.
Recall the first time you met a young Jeff Gordon at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992. What do you remember most about that?
Hendrick: “I was going through the pedestrian tunnel, and I saw this car come by and he was on the outside. He went in the corner so hard, I saw smoke roll off of the car, and I thought it was an engine [failure]. I realized it wasn’t. It was tires. I don’t remember who was with me, and I said, ‘Stay here a minute. I’m going to watch this guy wreck.’ They said, ‘It’s that Gordon kid.’ It was just meant to be, I think, that I saw him that day. It was so impressive. I came back and just happened to walk into Jimmy Johnson’s office, the guy who used to run the place, and Andy Graves was sitting in there. I said, ‘It’s a shame that Gordon kid has a contract with Ford.’ Andy said, ‘He doesn’t have a contract.’ I said, ‘Let’s find him quick.’ Boy, has it been so unbelievable for our company, the relationship … I think Jeff Gordon revolutionized the sport, opened the door for all these young guys that are coming in because we took a chance on him … what he’s done for the sport has been unbelievable.”
What is the “Jeff Gordon factor” like for a team?
Gustafson: “You can’t describe it in words. You just can’t describe his presence and what he does for the team and the sport and how big he is … I got the opportunity to work with Jeff and I’ve seen Jeff and worked around Jeff for a long time, and worked with Kyle [Busch] and worked with Mark [Martin] and thought I knew what it meant to be Jeff Gordon’s crew chief. I didn’t know what that meant until I was Jeff Gordon’s crew chief. Not only Jeff and what he is, but he is so iconic. Everybody knows Jeff. Everybody respects Jeff. His fan base is massive … To sum it up, it was a surreal moment at Homestead when we were in his last race competing for the championship, and I have Lewis Hamilton sitting on this side of me and I’ve got Mario Andretti sitting behind me. That just tells you how big Jeff Gordon is and the respect he has across not only motorsports but the nation in general.”
What was the first win with Jeff like at Charlotte?
Evernham: “Jeff was ready to win, and I felt like there were times when we didn’t give him a good enough car or I didn’t make the right decision. Charlotte has always been important to us at Hendrick because we want to make sure we perform well in the boss’ backyard. That was a big night for us because it was being able to be with Jeff when he got his first Busch win and when he got his first Cup win. It was an emotional night for everybody, and even more for Mr. H. when I said was going to take two tires (laughing). Just being part of that and seeing him come from being the young guy that I knew driving midget cars to finally reaching the top.“
As a broadcaster, what was your first impression of Jeff Gordon early in his career?
Joy: “My first impression was ‘Who is this kid and how did he get here so fast?’ because Jeff broke the playbook for driver development. He’s coming from midgets, sprint cars and one season of tearing up Bill Davis’ stuff in the Busch Series, and boom, he’s Rick Hendrick’s new driver and he is good. A little undisciplined to start, but he has talent and car control and situational awareness, and suddenly, he is a superstar.”
What have you seen out of him during his time at FOX Sports?
McReynolds: “He has been an unbelievable teammate. I never knew Jeff. I had talked to and spoken to Jeff, but I’d never really had a long conversation with Jeff before. Not that I ever wondered how or why he won 93 races and four championships, but now that I have been his teammate for three years, it totally makes sense. He is all in. I didn’t know what to expect when I found out he was going to join our FOX team. I didn’t know he if was just going to blow by and do what he had to do to get by. This guy is all in. What I love about him is he challenges me, and I love to be challenged. He will ask me, ‘So, what are they doing with race cars here and here and here?’ I might say, ‘Well, I’m not really sure,’ and he’ll say, ‘Well, we need to find out.’ I have a feeling that’s the way he was as a race car driver, which is, I think, a big part of the reason why he was so successful.”
Waltrip: “Jeff is so well-prepared. He and Jon Edwards [longtime PR manager] have notes. When we go into the booth, he’s as prepared as Larry [McReynolds] is. He has notes on everybody and he is committed. He is passionate about what he does, and that’s the thing that has impressed me the most. His preparation, passion and he really wants to do it right.”