For Jeff Gordon, Broadcasting Offers Plenty of Familiar NASCAR Thrills

By Jack Harris | Los Angeles Times | February 19, 2021

Jeff Gordon was ready for the final lap of the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

After a 25-year NASCAR career that included four NASCAR Cup Series championships, the Hall of Famer knew to expect a crash once the white flag came out for the race’s final lap.

“You know that leader, no matter who it is, is going to try to do their best to protect that position … and you know everybody behind is doing their best to try to pass,” he said. “A lot of times, those agendas collide.”

He was correct. Literally.

Entering the final turn, leader Joey Logano was bumped from behind by Brad Keselowski, setting into motion a fiery multiple-car wreck from which Michael McDowell emerged to win the race.

The hard part for Gordon, now five years removed from his last NASCAR race and entering his sixth season as an analyst on Fox Sports’ broadcast team, was making a split-second analysis of the carnage in front of him.

Cars and debris were strewn across the track. Since the caution flag had come out on the last-lap crash, the winner wasn’t initially clear. Up in the booth, Gordon and long-time play-by-play broadcaster Mike Joy were navigating it all alongside new analyst Clint Bowyer, the first Cup Series race in which the trio had worked together.

“There’s a lot going through your mind,” Gordon said afterward. “That was pretty difficult to handle.”

Difficult, but also exciting — the latest example of how broadcasting has helped fill the void of Gordon’s retirement from racing.

There’s the team aspect, exchanging crew chiefs and pit crews for producers and directors. There’s a preparation process, a meticulous routine of studying tracks and gathering information that mirrors his old regimen as a driver. There’s also a competitive pressure, with the red light of a live camera replacing the frantic wave of a checkered flag.

“How you fulfill the competition and the adrenaline and excitement around driving, a lot of drivers I’ve talked to have struggled with that,” Gordon said. “To me…”

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