Gordon on Ella Sofia driving: 'It terrified me'

Four-time Cup champion discusses watching his daughter get behind the wheel

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There isn’t a lot that scares Jeff Gordon. When one makes his or her living driving 190-mph rockets nearly every week in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, that’s not exactly a revelation.
But it seems there is one thing that can put the four-time champion a bit on edge — watching his 6-year-old daughter, Ella Sofia, climb behind the wheel of a quarter midget kart and turn laps on the track.
Gordon spoke about his daughter’s first effort, which took place April 20, while testing this week with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


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"It terrified me," he said. "From a parent’s standpoint, it’s kind of tough to watch them go around there and not have any control of what’s going on and know that it’s all on them now.
"It’s amazing the focus they can have at such a young age, to go on and do that, but at the same time you know all the things that can go wrong and that’s kind of scary."
Jeff Gordon began his racing career as a 5-year-old, eventually progressing through the open-wheel ranks in USAC. He made his NASCAR debut, in what is now known as the Nationwide Series, in 1990 as a 19-year-old. His 89 career wins in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series is most among active drivers and is third on NASCAR’s all-time list.
"I wouldn’t say she’s gotten the bug," Gordon said of his daughter. "She’s around it so much that it’s hard for her not to be influenced by it and we don’t want to keep her away from it if she wants to (race).
"But living in my house, horseback riding, gymnastics, soccer or whatever, there’s just stuff going on all the time and driving the race car, so far, has been the same as those other things. It’s not like it stands out, but it was fun from the sideline and we’ll see if it continues."
Gordon and his wife, Ingrid, also have a son, 3-year-old Leo.
Following in the footsteps of a successful, well-known parent carries with it a certain amount of expectations and pressure, in addition to the "positives that come with it," Gordon said.
Such concerns might need to be addressed at a later time. For now, Gordon said he and his family are willing to let Ella determine her level of interest.
"Honestly I think the only reason she’s interested in it is because I’m her dad and she just wants to please me and wants to do something that I do," he said. "And again, that’s not all bad. It can be good as well.
"It’s just how you handle it and how you go about it. You have to handle it properly because it could go really good or it could go really bad."


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