We interviewed NASCAR superstar driver Jeff Gordon when he was in Manhattan recently.
Did you get to pick number 24? Is it your lucky number?
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No, I didn't pick 24. When you come into NASCAR, there are certain numbers available, and the team that I was driving for chose 24. It wasn't very significant prior to that, but it's become very significant to me now because of all the years I've been racing, the wins and the championships.
Would you want your children to be NASCAR drivers?
Sure, if that's what they choose to do. I think it's important just like for me, my parents introduced me to racing, but I became very passionate about it and built a love for it and wanted to work very hard at being successful at it. Just find something that they love and are passionate about and can have fun building a life like I have out of it. It could be racing, but it doesn't have to be racing.
Do you admire your trophies?
They're great reminders of moments, moments that you're proud of, moments that hard work went into. This is a team sport, NASCAR is, and it reminds me of all the hard work as a team that we put into creating that moment of where we experienced victory. I do admire them. They're very meaningful because of the memory that they created.
Have you ever been in an accident while racing?
Absolutely I have. Luckily, I have not had any major injuries. Cars are very safe, but when you're traveling 200 miles per hour inches away from other cars, competitors, accidents are going to happen, and they have. I can say I've had a pretty bad one last year to start off the season where I was barrel-rolling down the track, but I came out of it unscathed and fine. So, yes, plenty of accidents.
What inspired you to start the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation?
When I was first starting in NASCAR, my crew chief, who basically is like the coach, he runs the team -- his son was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 1. That was my first introduction to anybody close to me that was dealing with cancer, and understanding the treatments and the process of what everybody's going through was an eye-opening experience for me. And over the years I just wanted to do more. In 1999 I started the Jeff Gordon's Children's Foundation, where we really focus on pediatric cancer research and development, as well as trying to keep treatment for patients out there.
Do you play sports?
My whole life I've raced since I was 5, 51/2 years old. That's all I've ever done. So I never played sports on a team, like at a school or anything like that. I certainly love all kinds of sports, football, basketball, baseball. But playing on an actual team, no -- I've just played with my buddies in the neighborhood.
How many race cars do you have?
We have so many race cars that we built for each season because we go to so many tracks, we race so much and because they do get damaged. Even if you win the race, sometimes they're damaged. So, to me, I'm really excited about the new car that we have this year. It's a whole new design called the Chevy SS, but I like the cars that I've won in. We have a few special ones over the years that are meaningful, and one of them we actually restored and put it at auction to raise money for charity.
What are your racing plans for the future?
I'm definitely getting toward the end of my career. I've been doing this a long time. I've been in NASCAR since 1993. For me, I probably have a couple more years left of driving and then I don't know from there. I definitely look forward to those next challenges in life -- maybe it's television, maybe it's in managing the race team that I'm with now.
How does your family feel about your racing?
They got me into racing so they obviously are OK with it. They're very supportive and introduced me to it. My stepfather actually wanted to race when he was a kid and it didn't really work out for him so he introduced me and my sister. She really wasn't interested, but I was and it's been a family event for us ever since I could remember. We traveled as a family to race tracks all over the country.