February 28, 2011
Gordon back in the fast lanePhoenix winner joins after-Oscar party
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Within two hours of winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in almost two years, Jeff Gordon was comparing trophies with movie stars at an after-Oscar party in Los Angeles.
It is a lifestyle to which Gordon has become accustomed, with frequent appearances as guest host on the popular morning show Live With Regis and Kelly as well as mingling with friends in the fashion and entertainment industry he hangs out with through his super-model wife Ingrid Vandebosch.
In spite of his elongated losing streak, Gordon has maintained a solid fan base and was in demand for such appearances as a presenter at the American Music Awards this year.
And Gordon’s next gig is as a star in the upcoming sequel to the monster hit Cars, that had Paul Newman in the staring role in the original.
Before Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway Gordon texted Cars2 producer John Lassiter, whose film Toy Story 3 took home the golden statuette for best animated film on Sunday, and said: “I’m going to come (to L.A.) to celebrate a Phoenix win and your Oscar together.”
Gordon admitted while he might have been getting ahead of himself, he did have the confidence in his team and in his talent.
Still, Gordon was feeling the pressure of being a four-time champion who was being beaten to the checkered flag on a regulars basis by his one-time protégé Jimmie Johnson. In fact Johnson had long ago surpassed Gordon as stock car racing’s best driver.
So it wasn’t so much relief he felt at winning at PIR, but joy that he still could do the deed, Gordon said.
“It was all joy. Trust me,” he said. “But maybe the joy came from a little bit of relief. When I started pulling away from Kyle (Busch), I knew all I had to do was pray the white flag would come out before the caution.
“I started having all kinds of thoughts and emotions, because it was just one of those roller coaster rides. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the No. 24 team the last couple of years.”
Through all the losing Gordon said he kept concerns his stellar career might be near an end deep inside of himself.
“It just seems like all of that gets bottled up,” he said. “You work so hard and it means so much; because of those moments and those times when you didn’t get the wins.
“It’s just so cool to get back to winning and having that kind of dominating performance.”
Gordon hopes Sunday’s win will be the springboard to another run at a fifth championship for the No. 24 team. And he has no doubts he can pull it off.
“I felt like I still have it in me,” he said. “I know how passionate I am about it.”
He is enough of a realist, he said, that he knows it will not be an easy task because there is so much more competition on the track than when he broke in as a kid from California back in the early 1990s.
“Things have changed in the sport; the cars have changed; tires have changed; competition has changed,” Gordon said. “So when you go through a streak without winning, you think, okay, is it me or what is it?
“Days like (Sunday) allow you to gain that confidence in yourself, just keep doing what you’re doing, what’s gotten you to victory lane in the past, keep giving that good information and when the tools around you and the chemistry is there throughout the whole team and good decisions are made, days like (Sunday) will happen.”
Certainly there were not many people in the aftermath of his win at Phoenix who doubted Gordon as a real threat to challenge Johnson for this season’s championship.