November 12, 2007
While sitting outside Jeff Gordon's motor home yesterday I had a good talk with the man who helped mold the legend: John Bickford, Sr. is Vice-President & General Manager of Jeff Gordon, Inc. And he had some great stories to tell about how he molded his stepson into a champion NASCAR legend from the age of five.
One of the stories John told me, was about testing equipment and tires and how a couple of hotshot drivers got into his car, took it around the track, came back in and said, "There's something wrong with the steering." Another hotshot went out in the car, and came back with the same complaint. John put his young stepson in the rig and sent him out and he turned record times and brought the car in. "Handles great," the kid reported. According to John, this car was so sensitive if you tried to steer the thing, you would spin out, but Jeff had such a subtle touch and he instinctively knew, "if you thought about going left, that car was going to go left." Amazing.
When I talked to Archie about equipment and safety he said, "Let me put it this way. If you took a car we raced in 1997 and parked it beside the ones we run today, we'd all say, 'How did we ever run that dangerous junk?' That's how much the cars have improved." Archie also told me that some of the neck and head safety equipment that is in use today would have saved Dale Earnhardt and others. An amazing world.
Having been in jail myself (14 hours, 1968, Nogales, Sonora, Drunk & Disorderly, B-29 Club, Canal Street) I know what it must have felt like for Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin to have been arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and put in the county slammer recently. Fortunately, for all of us it just adds to the legend.
On that note, one of the cartoons I found in the garage is this cartoon I did for New Times in about 1986, which predicts what they'd be doing in twenty years. Well, here we are, twenty years later, and I have to admit I think I nailed their codger-like resemblence and I was also right about the shovelling of money. It's even more amazing that they allowed me to run this cartoon in their newspaper! The company they now run, Village Voice Media, is worth some $400 million dollars. Not bad for a couple of guys who couldn't make their car payments when I met them in 1973 (in the spirit of full disclosure, not long after I met them my truck was impounded for late payments). I guess we all came out of poverty and irresponsible behavior to become legit. Ha. Too funny. Go tell my English teacher.
"Pay attention, Mr. Bell, or you'll never amount to anything."
—Mrs. Faye Logsdon, M.C.U.H.S. Senior English teacher
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