Four-time champion and FOX NASCAR analyst Jeff Gordon wrapped his first season in the television booth in 2016 following retirement from full-time driving. Below, he discusses his inaugural season as a broadcaster and what he learned from above the race track.
You’re amidst a national tour promoting your new book, Jeff Gordon: His Dream, Drive & Destiny (available nationally Nov. 22). What was the most challenging part of the book for you to write?
“We reveal some things that are definitely a little controversial, whether it be my divorce or talking about my parents’ separation, as well as the relationship between Jimmie Johnson and I and although I’m a huge supporter of his and friend of his, how that has been challenged over time, as well as the separation with Ray (Evernham) when he left the team. It hasn’t always been great, perfect and happy times, and it was tough to tell myself that if I’m going to write a book, I want it to be done in a way that shows who I truly I am and the things I went through and not hold back. I think Joe Garner did an excellent job of pulling that out of me, although it was hard at times.”
How would you grade yourself on your first year in the FOX NASCAR booth?
“I’d give myself a B. I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun and thought Mike (Joy) and DW and Larry (McReynolds) really welcomed me, which made me feel comfortable and helped me adapt and learn and enjoy it that much more. I’m someone who likes to strive for more. I thought it went well, and based on reaction I’d gotten from fans and other people I respect in the sport, I’m happy that they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I say a B because I was very nervous and had a lot to learn this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes next year because I feel I can improve each time I’m in the booth.”
Is there anything in particular you plan to work on in the booth next year – perhaps a weakness you’ve zeroed in on?
“A lot of it is having natural pauses in your speaking and making sure you’re not saying, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ and adding ‘fill’ words. Just add to the conversation when it’s necessary and natural to add, as opposed to getting into the mode of talking because I think it’s my time to talk. I don’t need to do that because Mike Joy is amazing at what he does, and DW is amazing at what he adds. So, I just need to be as good as I can be at adding what I think is important or interesting or what I’m capable of doing and not trying to do more than that.”
Did you watch FOX races back this season of which you were a part?
“I watched a couple back at the beginning of the year, and I’m definitely my strongest critic, whether it be hearing my voice or things I say. I think it was good (to do), but at the same time, I feel like I’m pretty good at naturally analyzing immediately after the race whether I should have done something differently or what went well or what I should do more of.”
You said you didn’t watch many of the FOX races back of which you were a part. When FOX concluded its portion of the season, was it strange to watch races on TV from home for the first time?
“That was so odd just sitting at home watching a race from my couch on a Sunday. That was the first time I’d done that since 1992. That was almost like an out-of-body experience. It was really an out-of-body experience when I then had to climb back in the car, out of the car (to substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and so forth.”