Jeff Gordon takes front seat at Cedar Point

From the Sandusky Register


Driving a stock car at speeds as high as 200 miles-per-hour, Jeff Gordon got a thrill Thursday riding a roller coaster at half that rate.Gordon was the latest in a line of sports figures to visit the park in the 2009 season, joining Browns Brady Quinn and Phil Dawson, former player Herschel Walker, and Cavaliers guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson on the list of celebrity appearances.

Gordon made two public appearances inside the park — the first at Point Pavilion near the entrance and a second in front of the laser screen between the Wildcat and Iron Dragon — answering identical questions at each location.

From there, Gordon and his Pepsi entourage made their way to the Millenium Force, where the former NASCAR champion rode the front seat with Cedar Fair CEO Dick Kinzel.

Hundreds of fans surrounded Gordon at the Point Pavilion, and the number was larger for his appearance on the Midway. And they asked the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet a variety of questions, beginning with his thoughts on speeding regulations in pit road?

Gordon answered, “We have a tachometer with lights… And when it lights up red (while driving down pit road), you’re speeding. And when it’s green, you’re not.”

He also said he’d like to see NASCAR improve its technology by giving drivers a button that regulates the RPM in the engines and keeps the car under a certain speed, similar to what Formula 1 uses in its cars.

What advice would you give to young drivers?

“Well the advice is for the parents, because it costs them money,” Gordon said. “I got started at age 5, racing Midgets. So get started as young as you can.

“It should be something safe, fun, and something you can grow with.”

What is your greatest memory in NASCAR?

“Probably my rookie season, in 1993, winning the inaugural Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis,” Gordon said. “I’d always dreamed of of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That was a favorite moment of mine.”

On becoming a team owner after his race career ends?

“Well, I get to drive for the best organization in Hendrick Motorsports,” Gordon said, “and I don’t have to start my own team because I’m on a great team.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick has even given Gordon equity in the company because of his success.

How did you get the No. 24?

“There’s no real secret. NASCAR owns the numbers, so when I came along in 1992, we went to NASCAR and got a list of the number available,” Gordon said. “No. 24 was available.”

Who is your all-time rival?

“It’s not the same out there with that black No.3,” Gordon said of racing Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who died as the result of a crash on the final lap at the Daytona 500 in February 2001.

“I’ve had great rivals over the years. Now it’s whoever is out there winning… it’s Jimmie Johnson, it’s Tony Stewart,” Gordon said.

“It’s Kyle Busch,” he added, drawing a boo from the crowd at Point Pavilion.

With 22 of 36 races completed in the Sprint Cup Series, Gordon sits in third behind Stewart, who leads with 3,383 points, and three-time champion Jimmie Johnson, second with 3,123.

Stewart won at Monday at Watkins Glen, while Gordon was 37th, knocked out of the race after 61 laps because of an accident. NASCAR races Sunday in the Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Gordon finished seventh in the standings in 2008, and for the first time since his rookie year, he ended the season without a win.

Gordon owns one win in 2009 — the Samsung 500 April 5 at Texas — has 10 finishes in the Top 10, and has earned $4.28 million in winnings.


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