Gordon made a spectacular entrance for “Jeff Gordon Day” at adjacent Klyde Warren Park by taking Duck Commander’s John Godwin for a spin in the No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet stock car that culminated with burnouts at the intersection of the Woodall Rodgers frontage road and Harwood St. in the heart of Dallas.
That was just the start of a day where Texas Motor Speedway partnered with Dallas’ scenic 5.2-acre Klyde Warren Park to honor Gordon’s career with special guests such as Dallas Cowboys great and fellow No. 24 Everson Walls and unique gifts in front of more than 2,000 of his fans.
“What a great day,” said Gordon, who announced in January that 2015 will be his final season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. “I got to do the donut and I can’t thank the city of Dallas enough for recognizing what I have done in the sport and for recognizing all of these great fans that came out here today. I can’t wait to come back for the Duck Commander 500 here in April.”
And Godwin couldn’t thank Gordon enough for doing the donuts since he got the best seat in the house as he rode as his passenger in the specially equipped two-seater stock car.
"I want everyone to come to the Duck Commander 500, watch all of these guys, and watch Jeff win," Godwin said. "It's going to be awesome!"
Gordon, in Dallas to promote the Duck Commander 500 on April 11 at Texas Motor Speedway, enjoyed a day of celebration with his fans and special presentations from Texas Motor Speedway, the city of Dallas and Walls.
“We are so excited to host a true legend in Jeff Gordon,” Klyde Warren Park President Tara Green told the crowd. “This park was literally made out of nothing and in the last two years it has grown to have days like today.”
Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage kicked off the presentations as he reflected on Gordon’s historic career and what he has meant to the sport of auto racing. Gossage presented Gordon with a shadowbox containing a Texas-shaped paver from Texas Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane and photos from his first – and currently only – victory at the speedway that came in the 2009 Samsung 500.
“He is so important and has been such an iconic figure and has changed how the business works,” Gossage said. “Jeff came from California, beat everybody and has done things that no one else could do. He has made it so when you look for drivers you look everywhere, just not from the South. That is one of things he has changed. He has done so well out of the car and that is just as important these days as winning on the track. It has been really fun to watch him grow professionally and personally.”
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins then presented Gordon with a Letter of Recognition on behalf of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, acknowledging the accomplishments of his historic career.
“I will never get that close to a car doing those donuts ever again,” Atkins said after enjoying a VIP view of the burnouts. “I know you must have great insurance. I had faith in you Jeff to do those because I stood so close! I have enjoyed watching him thrill all the people of Texas and around the world. You are truly a world leader.”
The iconic No. 24 Chevrolet that he has piloted for 23 seasons defines Gordon’s career and who better to join the festivities than one of the greatest No. 24s in Dallas sports history. Walls, a four-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive back who led the league in interceptions three times, presented a signed, authentic No. 24 Dallas Cowboys jersey with Gordon’s name stitched on the back.
“I am looking forward to coming to the Duck Commander 500 and I will be all about Jeff,” said Walls, who is a member of the All-Time Cowboys Team. “I could care less about all of those other guys; I just care about the No. 24.”
Gordon then did what he has done best outside of the car all these years, engage with his fans. He conducted a lengthy Q&A session with the throng and found time to sign autographs and pose for photos during the day. Some fans arrived during the wee hours of the morning to secure the best viewing location. Longtime Gordon and NASCAR fan Leonard Fortuna arrived at 7:45 a.m. CT for the afternoon’s festivities.
“After watching him all these years, it’s kind of bittersweet knowing that this is his last year,” Fortuna said. “Not to see that ol’ No. 24 with him going around the track will be a little tough, but we will follow him where he’s going and are thrilled to get to see him today.”
Gordon will return to Texas Motor Speedway in four weeks for NASCAR’s first nighttime race of the season, the Duck Commander 500. Tickets are available for both the Duck Commander 500 and the XFINITY Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday, April 10, by calling (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY NOTEBOOK
Gordon to get behind the mic: FOX Sports 1 is using current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers as guest analysis this season on their coverage of XFINITY Series races and Jeff Gordon will get his turn when the series arrives at Texas Motor Speedway on April 10 for the running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
“My first race I chose will be the one at Texas,” Gordon said. “It is such a great track I wanted my first experience doing this to be at a track that had a lot of action and storylines and one that would give me plenty to talk about and to me that is Texas.”
Godwin’s racing history goes way back: Duck Commander’s Godwin, who also stars in the hit reality television series Duck Dynasty, was asked by a fan how far back his history in racing went.
“I got into racing when I was little, like eight years old,” he said. “My mom got me into racing motocross and my dad would watch NASCAR on Saturdays and Sundays. Anything that goes fast I want to be a part of it.”
Same ‘ol Uncle Si: Godwin was asked about the new season of A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty, but all he could talk about was co-star Uncle Si.
“It’s been quite the ride,” Godwin said. “When we are doing our hunting video, long before any of the Duck Dynasty started, the camera guys would have to put their cameras on their knees and turn them away from Si to get him to talk, but now he won’t shut up. That is the way it always goes.”
TMS plays big part in growth of NASCAR: Jeff Gordon is recognized as one of the instrumental drivers when it comes to the growth of NASCAR over the years.
“It was a period of time where there was just a big boom,” Gordon said. “There was so much going on and we were going to so many new places and tracks. It was a really amazing and interesting time.
“I would never dream of getting to the Cup level was what it was. I never dreamed I would be out driving and people would be taking my picture and telling me to pull over. Life has been amazing for me and that growth happened around the time when Texas Motor Speedway did their groundbreaking and this (Texas Motor Speedway) has been a big part of the huge growth of NASCAR, especially at that time.”
All Smiles: Longtime Jeff Gordon fan Jill Schultz walked away with a huge smile following the festivities at Klyde Warren Park. Schultz was one of five fans who had their tweet printed out and signed by Gordon as part of Texas Motor Speedway’s Jeff Gordon Twittergraph Session promotion on the social media platform, Twitter.
“This is pretty cool,” Schultz said. “In 2001, I got my license plate that said ‘24FAN’ and the pit crew let me sit on the pit box. It was a winner.”
Gordon’s High Praise for TMS: “Texas means a lot to me and it means a lot to NASCAR. When they decided to build Texas Motor Speedway, we knew it was going to be big. But I don’t think any of us had any idea that it was going to be so incredible. It is probably the top facility we go to of all the NASCAR races. We love racing here and it always produces a great race. It is wide and super-fast with multiple lanes to race on. It’s a tough, challenging race track, but it offers some of the best racing. I have two more chances to win here.”
Chance of a lifetime: Jeff Gordon’s visit to Dallas was a dream come true for one lucky fan that won the chance to be the first person to greet the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion when he reached the stage at Klyde Warren Park.
Scott Gillespie, of Longview, Texas, was prepared for the meet-and-greet with his idol as he wore a Gordon shirt, had a few No. 24 die-casts for signing and a “selfie stick” to photograph the special moment.
“I have waited 18 years to meet him and today I finally get to meet him,” Gillespie said. “This is the trill of a lifetime for me.”
Besides getting some selfies with Gordon, he also posed for pictures with Duck Commander’s John Godwin, who was part of the afternoon’s festivities, and received a pair of Texas Motor Speedway ball caps signed by the two of them.