Jeff Gordon has been a presence at Hendrick Motorsports since his full-time NASCAR Cup Series driving career ended in 2015. However, that presence now “gets ramped up to a whole other level” as Gordon becomes vice chairman of the organization.
“I’m excited. It’s been in discussion for a long time between Rick (Hendrick) and myself,” Gordon said over the weekend at Pocono Raceway. “It wasn’t a choice about leaving Fox. It was really about the opportunity and the timing of moving into this role full-time. That was tough. I really enjoyed working with Fox, and I had a great team there. I learned a lot about and got a great perspective on entertainment and the TV side of the sport. And I think, forever, it will help me in this new position to try to keep us connected to the TV partners in a bigger way.”
Upon retirement from competition, Gordon joined the Fox Sports booth as an analyst in 2016. He spent three years working alongside Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip until Waltrip retired after 2019. Gordon and Joy welcomed Clint Bowyer into the booth this season.
The NASCAR on Fox portion of the schedule ended with the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 13. Gordon and Hendrick announced his new role, which formally begins on Jan. 1, 2022, last week.
“I had a lot of fun, especially this year working with Bowyer and Mike and those folks,” Gordon said. “This year was a lot of fun. I’m forever grateful, really, for that opportunity and appreciate Eric Shanks and his whole team for bringing me on board. Maybe it wasn’t a mutual decision, but it was one of those things where they understand.
“From the very beginning, they knew that I had an equity position at Hendrick and that one day this could be home. So, this is more about coming home for me.”
Despite the criticism about a conflict of interest, Gordon believes he did a good job of being as non-biased as possible in the booth. And with his commitment to television, Gordon said he tried to minimize the hours he spent at the Hendrick campus. But to take the vice chairman role and perform the job the way he wants, Gordon knew it was one over the other, and in stepping away from Fox, he can put 100 percent of his time into the organization.
Gordon became an equity owner of Hendrick Motorsports in 1999, and since then, has been behind the scenes learning the business side of the sport. When he knew he would step away from driving, Gordon admits his interest level began to increase. The more Gordon dedicated time going to the track with the team, being at the shop, talking to the marketing department, sponsorship, or even NASCAR about business, “I realized that this is where my true passion lies.
“I love the sport. I love racing. But the competition and being a partner with one of the best owners there will ever be in NASCAR, that’s really what I was getting excited about looking ahead.”
Gordon’s role will put him alongside Hendrick on the NASCAR team owner council, and he will assume the Hendrick Motorsports’ seat on the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. Given his recent experience in broadcasting, Gordon has a different perspective now, and one of his goals is to connect with the TV partners and make sure competitors (drivers, crew chiefs) know their personality, and the show on the racetrack means more than they think.
“As a competitor, you get very narrowly focused on the competition,” Gordon said. “This sport wouldn’t have the fans and wouldn’t be as big as it is if millions of people weren’t watching it on TV. And they want to see rivalries, right? They want to see personalities and frustrations, and excitement.
“I think that my perspective, coming from the last six years doing TV, it is definitely going to be present at Hendrick Motorsports and how we move forward. And I think our guys do a great job with that, but there’s no doubt we can do more.”