Jeff Gordon using exec role to expand legacy of Hendrick Motorsports


Jeff Gordon listens to the electronic content group define TikTok programs. adam stern

Jeff Gordon gained 4 NASCAR Cup Series championships and 93 Cup races, adopted by a effective stint as an on-air analyst for Fox Athletics. But on this day, he was sitting in a boardroom at Hendrick Motorsports, finding out about the team’s ideas to launch a TikTok account.


It was miles from Victory Lane, but a fitting image of the previous driver as he transitions to a complete-time businessman and learns more about what it can take to operate Hendrick Motorsports, the group exactly where he loved his driving accomplishment and holds a minority stake.

January observed Gordon just take over as vice chairman of the fabled crew. Given that then, he’s showed up practically every working day, sitting by conferences, checking out means to sell and guidance sponsorships, and on this day in late January, attending a digital content conference in which Hendrick Motorsports content director Christine Brownlow provided a rundown of the impending TikTok account launch.

“I glance at this the very same way as when we released a Twitter account [in 2009],” Gordon reported, including that from his perspective something that can improve the working experience of NASCAR supporters is a optimistic. 

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Gordon sat at the head of the table, putting on a Hendrick Motorsports-branded black vest in excess of a blue shirt, and sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Speaking through a black mask, he quizzed staffers about what TikTok films crank out the most engagement. Knowledgeable that 1st-person, position-of-check out reels are performing the finest, he leaned in and reported he was currently envisioning unique strategies to give admirers those people sorts of angles.

The minutiae of functioning a race crew on equally the level of competition and business sides is part of life these days for Gordon, and it comes at an significant time for Hendrick Motorsports. Rick Hendrick, the 72-year-aged operator of the staff and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Team, explained he was starting to get stretched skinny on his workload. He insisted he’s not stepping back again from his NASCAR job in total but mentioned he’s uncovered to be more considered about what he spends his time on.

Groups are doing the job on a assortment of time-consuming problems, from the hunt to find and just take treatment of sponsors, to positioning themselves better for NASCAR’s following Tv set deal, and they are assembly a lot more than at any time among the Race Staff Alliance, Workforce Owner Council and NASCAR’s range committee. Gordon is concerned with all of them, while Hendrick nevertheless performs his job when there is a little something excess important going on.

“I’ve realized to hit the large places,” Hendrick stated of what getting Gordon appear in has permitted him to do. “I am 100% CEO of the two businesses, but there’s only so quite a few several hours in the day — and I am obtaining more mature.”

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Gordon, 50, drove NASCAR’s mainstream popularity in the course of his two-ten years racing occupation. Following retiring in 2015, he moved into the broadcast booth, doing the job for Fox Athletics from 2016 as a result of 2021. With his Fox deal expiring and Hendrick on the lookout to lighten his workload, Gordon introduced final calendar year that he would leave the community and seize his future challenge.

Gordon’s prosperity would have authorized him to retire, but the notion of working the historic race staff that he loves was more alluring than just sitting down on a beach somewhere. The team’s workplaces are considerably less than a mile from Charlotte Motor Speedway, and that’s exactly where you’ll now uncover Gordon most times working until eventually 5 or 6 p.m.

“He loves being concerned in the activity and most likely as critical as that is that the respect he has for Rick [Hendrick]is definitely superior,” stated Jeff Burton, the former NASCAR driver and existing NBC Sports broadcaster recognized as “The Mayor” for his deep connections in the garage. “There’s a group of men and women in this activity who really don’t have to do the job to make finishes satisfy, but they do mainly because they want to be element of producing it better, and he’s in that group.”

Hendrick Motorsports has an considerable NASCAR pedigree. It’s the most successful group in NASCAR heritage, with 14 Cup Collection championships and 280 race victories. The staff now has 4 Cup Sequence vehicles with a driver lineup that incorporates the sport’s most well-known driver, Chase Elliott, and last year’s Cup Collection winner, Kyle Larson.

Gordon acquired a stake in the crew when Hendrick available him a life span contract in 1999, and is the sole minority operator of the corporation. The stake is element of a wider partnership that consists of investments with Hendrick in true estate, the stock marketplace and automobile dealerships. Hendrick Automotive Team has 94 places and is one of the biggest privately held auto sellers in the place.

Inspite of his elevated function, it is not obvious regardless of whether Gordon is the heir to the throne at Hendrick Motorsports. The workforce president, Marshall Carlson, is also Hendrick’s son-in-legislation. Hendrick’s son, Ricky, appeared to be in line to one particular working day aid operate the workforce, but he died in a airplane crash in 2004.

His business office is adorned with mementos from a driving job that included 4 NASCAR Cup Collection titles.Hendrick Motorsports

For the duration of his driving career, Gordon mentioned he largely just wanted to target on successful races and getting treatment of his sponsors, which above the years integrated the likes of Pepsi, DuPont (now Axalta) and Chevrolet. But the equity stake piqued his curiosity in the company facet of the sport, and from that stage on he figured he’d eventually grow to be an government at Hendrick Motorsports when his driving days ended up done.

He has been helping the staff for years, but as a broadcaster, his loyalties ended up split — a scenario that was getting progressively tough as the decades went by. Gordon was criticized on social media past 12 months by some lovers for showing to be as well partial toward Hendrick Motorsports. For instance, soon after Elliott received at Circuit of the Americas, Gordon was photographed in Victory Lane celebrating with the driver.

No matter of any criticism, the early involvement with the team shortened his discovering curve in the new position. Gordon had begun quietly attending vital marketplace conferences in the latest years on behalf of Hendrick Motorsports and has lengthy been included on the competition facet. That practical experience places Gordon among a lot of in the sport who insist the ownership model is not performing and requires to be improved when the NASCAR constitution technique arrives up for renewal concurrent with the new Television offer that will get started in 2025. Teams want a lot more Television money out of the up coming deal the present split is 65% to tracks, 25% to teams and 10% to NASCAR. Groups now rely on sponsorship for about 75% of their once-a-year money, which they come to feel is unsustainable and unfair.

You really don’t generate in NASCAR without understanding how to thank your sponsors, so it’s no shock that some of Gordon’s earliest moves have arrive with sponsors in intellect. For example, Gordon proposed growing the size of the team’s pit boxes beginning this year to give extra area for the crew and for sponsor visitors who can sit in the box as a hospitality perk. Gordon stated he bought the inspiration to elongate the pit packing containers by touring to different sporting gatherings all around the planet, which include Formula Just one races, and observing their hospitality initiatives.

Other new Gordon-led initiatives contain massive offseason assessment conferences with motorists, their brand management teams and Hendrick Motorsports executives. He’s also working to convey in more sponsors overall.

Pat Perkins, Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of marketing and advertising, mentioned that even though Gordon has extensive assisted out in many methods on the company aspect, what’s various now is “he’s below in essence every day and he’s engaged with us as a support program.”

Perkins reported Gordon has assisted revamp some of Hendrick Motorsports’ advertising operations and that his presence in factors like sponsor conferences helps for the reason that “he’s quite commercially and promotionally minded, he understands lifestyle, know-how and media platforms, and on leading of that he’s Jeff Gordon.”

As anyone who crossed in excess of to the mainstream and got showcased in advertisements by main blue-chip makes these types of as Pepsi, Gordon knows the price of massive buyer sponsors and suggests he wishes to improve the star ability of the team’s four motorists, who in addition to Elliott and Larson include William Byron and Alex Bowman.

“When I search at my possess profession, I adore how we had a mix of B2B and product or service sponsors that tied into Hendrick Automotive Team, but also Pepsi that was a massive model that was pushing you as an athlete and team and achieving out to a broader enthusiast foundation,” Gordon reported. “When I glance at NASCAR when we were definitely hitting on all eight cylinders, you experienced sponsors that had been contributing to that.”

Gordon explained the group is approximately offered out of accessible sponsor inventory for this period, a key indicator of money overall health in the activity. Companions incorporate Ally Financial, Ashoc strength consume, Axalta, Hooters, NAPA Automobile Areas and Valvoline. Like a lot of NASCAR teams, Hendrick has had some high-profile sponsor departures in recent many years, together with Lowe’s and Pepsi’s Mountain Dew brand name.

Marti Walsh, vice president of advertising and marketing at NAPA, mentioned that considering the fact that she joined that organization in late 2020, Gordon has been a large enable in teaching her about the nuances of the sport, significantly simply because she was somewhat unfamiliar with it prior to using the work. Atlanta-primarily based NAPA has been the significant backer of Ga native Elliott since he moved to the Cup Series in 2016.

Gordon and staff owner Rick Hendrick (proper) rejoice soon after driver Kyle Larson introduced an additional NASCAR Cup Collection championship home to Hendrick Motorsports.getty visuals

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Standing in his upstairs workplace searching over a binder total of photographs, Gordon is enthusiastic as he points out illustrations or photos of Hendrick Motorsports record that his assistants are about to transform into framed portraits in the workplace entranceway. 1 is a traditional impression of Hendrick sitting on a automobile at his famed Metropolis Chevrolet dealership. Yet another is from last year’s race at Dover Worldwide Speedway, when the staff experienced the first 1-2-3-4 end in its background.

“Between the many years of driving, staying included with the business enterprise behind the scenes here at Hendrick and Tv, I’m unquestionably all set and savoring it,” Gordon explained. “Rick and I were being flying residence from Daytona yesterday [after the Rolex 24 sports car race], and I stated, ‘I’m possessing a blast.’ I continue to have a large amount to find out and a good deal is heading on to keep me really occupied, but I adore becoming far more concerned with the persons here and observing the facet of the company that I come to feel we can make much better — just providing additional to our sponsors.”

Gordon will not be necessary to be at just about every race about the initially 50 % of the time any longer like he experienced to for Fox, but he’s nevertheless setting up to be at the observe typically. He states his present agenda has him attending all but 6 of NASCAR’s 36-race routine in 2022.

What he is concentrated on is taking Hendrick Motorsports to new amounts. He wishes his motorists to turn out to be far more properly-acknowledged outside of motorsports and to cross around to the mainstream like he did. Elliott is the sport’s most well-known driver but is at times observed as remaining reserved and stoic, which performs well with NASCAR’s crowd but may possibly be hurting his likelihood of producing much more of a mainstream affect.

“I want our motorists to be organic and don’t want them to be anyone they are not, but what ever you are comfortable with, I want to see you go just outside the house that convenience zone,” Gordon reported. “If you are keen to put your self in destinations persons really do not anticipate you and you want to be there — the common sporting activities and region tunes concerts are terrific, but let’s take that a action further more — that is what I’m attempting to really encourage our men to do. I didn’t want to host ‘Saturday Evening Live’ [at first] — I was terrified to dying.”

Even just before he took on this new place, Gordon played an vital purpose in the rehabilitation of Larson last year right after the driver was correctly banished from the sport in 2020 for a year right after utilizing a racial slur. Gordon helped advocate for Hendrick Motorsports to seek the services of Larson and felt the staff could help get his career back again on observe. Larson gained the 2021 NASCAR Cup Collection championship for Hendrick Motorsports in his first yr back again and has mostly repaired his image, which include by doing work with social justice groups.

Hendrick pointed out that for the reason that Gordon was at the time a youthful celebrity driver himself, he can relate with the team’s crop of young drivers in strategies that a lot of other individuals just cannot, which includes “explaining the pitfalls.” Hendrick included that Gordon has also put in a ton of time acting as a conduit in between crew chiefs and drivers to create healthier dialogue and relationships between teammates.

Gordon is encouraging Hendrick Motorsports’ motorists to contend in other kinds of racing. Larson is previously a massive proponent of this — Gordon calls him motorsports’ modern-day AJ Foyt or Mario Andretti in this regard — and his teammate Bowman has also extensive been racing on dust tracks in addition to NASCAR. Elliott has started attempting out different forms of racing in excess of the previous 12 months and Byron is getting inspired to do some late-product pavement racing this 12 months in addition to his NASCAR responsibilities, Gordon reported.

One particular major dilemma is regardless of whether Larson will at any time enter the Indianapolis 500. Gordon mentioned it’s not likely for this year, but immediately after that, “we’re open to it, but we’d like to at least talk about as a team what helps make the most feeling — this is the priority in this article, and if he went to drive in the Indy 500, we’d want to make sure we’re supporting it, embracing it and fired up about it due to the fact we think each can be finished very well.”

The business itself is also open to dabbling in other varieties of racing. Gordon didn’t get particular but he stated: “We have to be geared up in which motorsports and NASCAR is headed. It is our bread and butter and what we like, but at the very same time we appreciate autos and we’re a organization that has a tradition of efficiency, vehicles and racing … and if the correct option arrives together to do a thing with [General Motors] in addition to NASCAR, we would completely be open up minded.”

For now, Gordon has his initiatives centered somewhere else, no matter if it is learning about TikTok or what ever else it will take to manage a profitable race crew:

“My priorities and issues I want to focus on the most are: ‘What’s heading to enable us continue on to keep at an elite amount of vehicles, teams, competitively and all the components it will take to do that?’”

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