Jeff Gordon’s Second Year As Vice Chairman Of Hendrick Motorsports Boasts High Expectations
Nascar Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon attends the Blue Jacket Ceremony at the Nascar Hall of Fame in… [+] January 2023. (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon hasn’t competed in a Nascar race since 2016. Nonetheless, the Rainbow Warrior is still the man Nascar calls on to promote the sport ahead of his 75th birthday.
Gordon, 51, still captivates audiences of all kinds across America. Last week, the vice president of Hendrick Motorsports was on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, a sign that he’s still going strong.
The four-time Nascar Cup Series champion is thriving in his new role at Hendrick Motorsports, as No. 2 behind team owner Rick Hendrick. As Gordon enters the second year of his term, his new journey of taking on new challenges outside of his comfort zone really excites him.
“It’s been great to have this year under my belt and to better understand the areas of the business where I can have the most impact,” Gordon said in New York last week. “I love getting to know people, interacting with them on a whole new level. On the business side, I’m excited about some of the things happening in the sport, and Hendrick Motorsports in particular.
Hendrick Motorsports has just released a series of major announcements, some of which have rocked the motorsports industry. Among the moves for Hendrick is Garage 56’s entry for Nascar in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which just announced its driver roster last weekend.
For Gordon, it’s more than competing in another race under the HMS banner. It’s an old sealant.
“There are bucket list items and a branded legacy game for Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick,” Gordon said. “We started from this idea that [Nascar Chairman and CEO] Jim France had with Garage 56. I’m so proud of our efforts and the continued collaboration to bring this to life. It’s a lot of work and it’s very difficult. People may not understand this. Even though we are in a class of our own, there are always targets with high expectations that we want to hit. It starts with 24 hours, ending just.
“The car is much heavier and taller with less downforce than your typical GT T GT car, but they want us to run a specific lap time or close to a target, so we’re not far off the GT cars. “We create more downforce and evacuate air in and around the car, which makes the car’s grip more powerful. They’ll definitely hear us coming.”
Additionally, Hendrick Motorsports has announced that it will partner with McLaren Racing to field a 2024 Indianapolis 500 entry for Kyle Larson. Larson, who is often compared to Gordon, will nail “The Double,” where he will race the 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte later in the day. Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and John Andretti are the only riders to complete the 575 miles between the two races.
Throughout it all, Gordon has been the lead negotiator for Hendrick Motorsports. As he puts it, he “enjoys making deals.”
“It was a big event for me as a kid – my favorite drivers were Rick Mears and AJ Foyt,” Gordon said. “When I came to Nascar it wasn’t something I was chasing or thought was a reality. But Kyle Larson comes along and here’s a guy who likes to drive anything and everything. He said he wanted to try the Indy 500 and I ran it through Rick Hendrick. He said, ‘It’s also a to-do list item for me.’ done with the right team and a lot of planning, which is why it was an announcement that came out early.
Along with additional racing outside of Nascar, Hendrick Motorsports is determined to compete for its 15th Cup Series title. After Chase Elliott and Larson won back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021, respectively, the team failed the first year of the Next Gen car. Elliott reached the Championship 4 for the third consecutive season.
Now Gordon wants the team’s four riders to push each other like seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and he has.
Gordon said: “I’m really excited for the second year of the Next Gen car, to hear our team – crew chiefs, engineers and everyone – working on their list of things they can do to improve their car Our expectations are high.
He also believes Hendrick’s current lineup of drivers and crew chiefs is as strong as it’s ever been.
“We have a new crew chief on board with Alex Bowman, someone who was handpicked when we knew Greg Ives would be in transition,” Gordon said. “I’m excited to see how Alex Bowman and Blake Harris click. We are in the third year of Rudy Fugle and William Byron, and they are steadily improving each year. Then you have Chase and Kyle, teams operating at the highest level of the company. They all work together to be the best dog. I like internal competition. It’s what led Jimmie Johnson and me, and it’s what led others to Hendrick for many years.
And as the interview draws to a close, Gordon slightly rolls up his sleeve. He shows off the Rolex he won when he won the Rolex 24 in 2017. It’s a symbol that even though his driving days are behind him, he looks forward to more challenges ahead.
This time, instead of getting attached to the wheel of a racing car, it is Gordon who signs the contracts.