Jeff Gordon’s two kids stole the show with the motorsports media after his induction earlier this month into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Gordon, who grew up in Pittsboro, brought daughter Ella and son Leo into the media room and they were asked about the honor bestowed upon their dad.
“It was very cool,” said Leo, 8, barely visible seated behind the table. “I’m very happy that I got to hug him after he gave his speech,” Ella, 11, said, “It was very amazing to see how much he’s accomplished. It was really cool to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
After their comments, their dad commented, “They handled that like pros.” Earlier, Ella, Leo and team owner Rick Hendrick presented the Indiana product with his Hall of Fame ring onstage at the Charlotte Convention Center. Gordon, Roger Penske, Jack Roush were the 2019 inductees along with the late Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison. Gordon and Penske were honored for their NASCAR achievements.
Gordon notched four NASCAR driving championships, 81 poles and 93 wins, including a record five Brickyard 400s. Penske drivers have won 114 Cup races and two Cup championships. He also built Auto Club Speedway in California and owned Michigan International Speedway.
They proudly looked back at their past that featured milestones in Hoosierland Gordon, now a motorsports announcer for Fox, recalled 1989 when he was hired in Indiana by USAC midget car owner Rollie Helmling. His USAC roots as a teen driver are legendary, winning 1990 USAC midget and 1991 Silver Crown championships. His big break came when Hendrick witnessed his Busch Series triumph at Atlanta in March 1992.
“Timing is what got me here (Hall of Fame),” Gordon said. “All the hard work, seizing the moment in any good car that I had the opportunity to drive and hoping the right car owner would take a chance on me.” Penske added to the Indianapolis flavor with two Brickyard 400 wins and record 17 Indianapolis 500 wins.
His NASCAR championships were earned by Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Joey Logano last year. The Penske organization also claimed it 500th win in motorsports last year. Penske, a former driver who won a NASCAR road course race at Riverside, Calif., in 1963, tried to put his team ownership career in perspective.
“I’m always looking out the windshield; so, I’m looking for the next opportunity – it keeps you young and motivated,” Penske said. “But the history when it all piles up and you step back for a minute, it’s hard to believe. It has taken thousands of people in our organization and our partners are what you build on for that continuity. Human capital is our secret weapon.”
His motorsports roots began by watching the 1951 Indianapolis 500 with his father that launched his interest in cars.
“I was able to take the racing instincts that I had and put all that together to help the drivers who have raced for us and the superstars driving for us today,” Penske said. “We look at a driver as who you are and what we think we can do with you as a partner.”
When asked about future goals, Penske replied that he would like to win more championships and the coveted 24 Hours of LeMans.