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WATCH: NASCAR Driver Jeff Gordon addresses fans and the media in L.A.

WATCH: Interview with Parker Bohn III and race fans at NASCAR event in L.A.

 
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NASCAR Auto Racing News

Thursday, 8 March, 2012 0:55 AM

Jeff Gordon visits downtown L.A. to preview the Auto Club 400

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

NASCAR Driver Jeff Gordon addresses race fans and the media at the NOKIA Plaza on March 5, 2012.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

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LOS ANGELES -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon finished eighth in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 race in Phoenix. One day later, he pulled up in a stock car and parked it in front of the NOKIA Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. He addressed his fans and the news media on a special stage that was set up. Earlier in the day, he was bowling with PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III and Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker inside the Lucky Strike Lanes. The driver of the No. 24 stock car for Hendrick Motorsports is a three-time winner at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

"I try to do my share, but more importantly, your bowling event has been going on for 10 years now and you've raised over $1.5 almost $2 million dollars for a local children's hospital in Indianapolis," PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III said about Gordon. "My grandfather was a race car driver, not to Jeff's extent obviously, but Ray [Evernham] and my grandfather kind of hooked up and were friends for a long, long time."

Alan Gustafson replaced Evernham as Jeff Gordon's crew chief in 2011.

"He's kind of like my younger brother that I never had," Gordon explained. "He and I are really in sync. It's true that the crew chief is so important. When you look at other sports, the coach or the person that really guides the entire team, while the driver gets a lot of credit for being behind the wheel, it's the crew chief who works day in and day out putting long hours in, working with people, understanding the engineering, what it takes to build the cars, make it go faster, build the team up and keep all of the glue together. I've got a great one in Alan Gustafson and he reminds me a lot of Ray. Ray was willing to put that effort into whatever it took."

The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished eight in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix after starting from the 30th position.

"It was an accomplishment only because of where we started," he said. "It wasn't a finish I thought we were capable of. We were capable of a little bit more. In the middle part of the race, I had one of the best cars. One time on a restart, I know this is hard to believe, Kurt Busch ran into the back of me. I don't know how it happened and it damaged the back of the car pretty bad. The car was never quite the same after that. To finish eighth and start 30th and some of the issues I dealt with, I was pretty happy."

An audience member asked Gordon if he gets nervous when the race is about to start.

"I've been doing this for a long, long time so I wouldn't call it nervous," the Sprint Cup Series driver answered. "I mean there are certain events like Daytona, there is a lot of excitement and energy around that event. I think you get a little bit more pumped up for that event and because it's the first race of the year. Other than that, I would say it's pretty much business as usual. I try to go into every race with the same mindset without setting too high of expectations, but also having enough confidence for what's about to happen. When you've been doing it for 20 years, you don't really get butterflies, at least I don't."

The driver of the No. 24 stock car described his busy week ahead of Sunday's race in Las Vegas.

"I leave here, I go to Orlando, then I go to Nashville, then I go to Vegas and that's all by Thursday," he said. "He [Bohn] just came from Croatia to be here and they lost his luggage. That's commitment, I love it. You talk about a busy schedule. But this guy's been doing it all the way around the world. So I can't say anything. I will be home for a couple of hours tonight."

Gordon has a five-year-old daughter and a 19-month old son. Are they going to follow your footsteps as a driver?

"It is so much fun at home right now," the Sprint Cup Series driver added. "It is also very hectic and keeps me going. I was never a coffee drinker until our second child came. I'm basically looking for the coffee machine button every morning. I love the off-season because I get to spend more quality time with the family. Both of my children will absolutely drive race cars. That might be a one-day event for my daughter or it could turn into more than that. My son is going to be more than one day. It's up to him how long that's going to be."

Another race fan asked him what else he would like to accomplish in his racing career besides winning more races and championships.

"What else is there more to accomplish?" The Hendrick Motorsports driver joked. "There's a lot I look at a lot different now that I'm a parent, working with children with my foundation especially after the trip we just took to Rwanda in December. I just look at the world a different place and what's important. I'm still very competitive. What happens on the track is only and all about winning races and championships."

Just before the fan event, he was bowling with PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III and Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker inside the Lucky Strike Lanes.

"There were a couple of fans, the season ticket holders that showed up and had the chance to roll the ball down the lane," Bohn said in an exclusive interview. "I think that everybody involved had a really great time. There's no winners. I should say there's no losers today. It was mainly to go out there and have a good time supporting the NASCAR event that is going to be here in California in two weeks. I've bowled in southern California for 25 years at least. A couple of my tour titles are from Riverside. Lucky Strike Lines is a phenomenal place. It's a specialty facility for a different kind of clientele. That facility has a very unique characteristic that lends to itself."

Race fan Dave Marquez of Pico Rivera, Calif. came out to get a couple of his model cars autographed by Gordon, but was unsuccessful.

"I seen him on the news on TV and the radio a couple of times," Marquez said. "He's a busy guy. This was from the first race at Auto Club and I wanted him to sign it, but next time. I've been going to every race since it opened. I will continue the streak. I will be going just for the Sunday race. I got a couple of autographs from Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace. I've met a couple of other drivers."

Tina Thompson of Long Beach, Calif. was waiting for her husband to get out of a business meeting so she listened to the NASCAR's drivers remarks.

"I thought he was great, he's very personable," Thompson explained. "I love that he is so committed to the driving of his race car and the fans especially. He realizes that the fans are what makes the sport for the drivers successful. I didn't bring anything today and I let the people that are real, real Jeff Gordon fans go in front of me. He had limited time. I saw Jimmie Johnson last year in Fontana right before the race and got his autograph. I'm going to go to Fontana and this year we have the pit tickets so we upgraded. I had got some information from people in the past year that said the pit tickets were really beneficial and fun."

Race fan Marc Hagest of Simi Valley, Calif. actually got one of his model car haulers autographed by Gordon at the event.

"It was pretty cool, I enjoyed all of the feedback he gave with us," Hagest said. "I was surprised that more people didn't show up, but that's for the better for everybody. I got signed a '90 something hauler when he was getting started with Jeff Bodine and Terry Labonte and all of those guys. I've met several, I've met Kurt Busch on a one-on-one basis back in 2006 at Dave & Busters out in San Bernardino. Nobody showed up for that one either. I've got my tickets for the March race. I've been a member of the Auto Club Speedway since 2002. I'd like to be there for all three days, but unfortunately I can't handle that. I'll be there for the Cup race."

Gordon will return to southern California for the Auto Club 400 race weekend (March 23 - 25) in Fontana, Calif.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the Auto Club 400, call 1-800-944-RACE (7223) or visit www.autoclubspeedway.com.

Related Story: Matt Kenseth stops at Pink's Hot Dogs to celebrate his Daytona 500 victory

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

She welcomed everyone to the event.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III, a DJ from KLOS-FM and NASCAR Driver Jeff Gordon

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

"My grandfather was a race car driver, not to Jeff's extent obviously, but Ray [Evernham] and my grandfather kind of hooked up and were friends for a long, long time," Bohn said.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

About 150 race fans showed up for the special event in downtown L.A.

 

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