Jeff Gordon has been through his fair share of frightening crashes during his 37 years behind the wheel. It's inevitable in a high-speed, high-risk sport like auto racing. But when it comes to his 6-year-old daughter, Ella Sofia, Gordon turns into a mushy, protective father.
You see, Ella Sofia, is now driving quarter-midgets, just like her old man - and it's making her four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion father more nervous than he ever has been in a racecar.
"It terrified me. 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," said Gordon, who was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 3 and 4 for a test and tune in preparation for the July 13 Camping World RV Sales 301. "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."
Gordon began racing quarter-midgets at the age of 5. Ella Sofia, who will turn 7 on June 20, might not be looking at a career in racing just yet, but come 2025 (when she turns 18), there might just be another Gordon making her way through the NASCAR ranks.
"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," said Gordon. "Living in my house, horseback riding, gymnastics, soccer or whatever, there's just stuff going on all the time and driving the racecar 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."
A start in racing at a young age is nothing new. In fact, some of the brightest up-and-coming stars of the sport (Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott to name a few) have yet to reach the age of 25.
But putting the pressure of Gordon's name behind Ella Sofia would be an unfair expectation, especially if she decides to venture down a similar path.
"I think there's a lot of positives that come along with it (starting young), but there's also a lot of expectations and pressures that can come along with it. 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," said Gordon. "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.
Given how well Gordon has handled his career, both on and off the track, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see a female Gordon taking the checkers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the not-too-distant future.