Four time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon and wife Ingrid added a second child to the family in 2010. A son, Leo Benjamin, was born in August. He became little brother to Ella who turned 3 in June.
Friday at Daytona International Speedway, Gordon said becoming a father had changed his perspective a bit. But despite what some might think, having children hasn’t made him think about stepping out of a racecar any time soon.
“It’s making me drive longer, I can tell you that,” Gordon joked. “I start looking at tuitions for schools, and yeah, the bills are definitely going up.”
Turning serious, Gordon said having children does make a difference
“I think really for me what I notice is just the pride that I take in what I do,” he said. (It) takes on a whole new meaning. I’ve been racing for years, and my family has been involved in what I do every step of the way. And so a lot of times what I did out there on the racetrack was as much for them as it was for me.
And now when you have your own children and you go home and you hear them say little things just like, Pop, I was watching you race…”
Gordon then talked about just how children can put things in a whole new light. Last November at Texas Motor Speedway, Gordon and Jeff Burton got into an on-track shoving match after a wreck took both cars out of the event.
“I can laugh about it now, both me and Jeff Burton can laugh about it now,” Gordon said. “But I went home that night after the Texas event last year, and I got home late, but Ella woke up in the middle of the night so I went in there to lay down with her to help her go back to sleep.
So she realized it was me, and she said, Papa, were you wrestling with another guy out there on the track today?” Gordon said laughing “And I said, Well, kind of. She said, Why? Why did you do that? And I said, Well, I got angry. She goes, Why were you angry? She wouldn’t quit. It’s three in the morning, and these are the things that are on her mind. It just brings everything into perspective, and it’s just so raw and it’s so fun.”
“And then to make the story even better,” he added, “Then I called Jeff Burton two days later to talk, and so he told me his story. You know, he said, Well, I’ll one up you easy on that because I’ve got, whatever, I think 12 or 14 year old, and they were like, Dad, I’m going to kick Jeff Gordon’s butt and blah, blah, blah, and I had to explain to them, No, your dad kind of made a mistake.”
“We both really laughed about those stories and what kids do to your life and to your career, and from every aspect of the enjoyment of sharing a victory to the agonies of defeat and embarrassing moments.”
“It’s amazing,” Gordon said. “To me it’s not, it’s not about… to me, no matter what your job is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or a race car driver, when you have children, it doesn’t make you less passionate about what you love to do. I think if anything it makes you more passionate about it.”
Even despite competing in sport with an inherent risk, Gordon said his desire has only strengthened since the birth of his children.
“I think most people just automatically assume when you’re in a dangerous sport like this that when you have children it makes you think “I don’t want to do this.’” Gordon said. “You know, to me, it makes me more inspired to want to do it better. That’s all.”