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Jeff Gordon and his wife have a baby daughter due to arrive in late June or early July.
AP photo by Bob Crisp
Jeff Gordon and his wife have a baby daughter due to arrive in late June or early July.

Gordon knows baby girl will change his life

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — This much Jeff Gordon knows for sure: His life will change dramatically when his daughter is born this summer.

And maybe, just maybe, his NASCAR career won't seem quite so important.

"I think it's going to be one of two things: It's either going to make me work that much harder and appreciate racing that much more and enjoy it that much more," Gordon said. "Or it's going to make me go, 'I don't even want to do this.' "

The prospect of fatherhood — the baby is due in late June or early July — certainly hasn't diminished his enthusiasm for racing. The four-time Cup champion is off to a career-best start and leading the points race for the first time since February 2005.

The 35-year-old Gordon is fresh off a third-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, his third top-5 already this season.

"I think that our team is really strong right now," said Gordon, seeking his first Cup title since 2001. "Every time we go through something like we went through Sunday, where we faded to the back and fought our way to the front, it only makes us stronger."

More than a few skeptics wondered whether Gordon's off-the-track good fortune — his November marriage to supermodel Ingrid Vandebosch and then the news of the baby — would have the opposite effect.

Crew chief Steve Letarte, however, is convinced the baby will be a blessing for Gordon on and off the track.

"He's lived for this sport. When he has a chance to go home and hold his little girl and have time to spend with his wife, I think that puts it all in perspective," said Letarte, who has two young children. "I think it's going to help us. I think it's going to be the best thing ever."

Jimmie Johnson, the reigning Nextel Cup champion and Gordon’s teammate, agreed.

“There are a lot of people who have started families and had successful families and racing careers,” Johnson said. “Jeff Gordon is one of the best on the track, and I don’t see it changing him.”

Gordon happily admitted he has trouble imagining the changes a baby will bring. Maybe he should compare notes with Tiger Woods, also awaiting his first child.

Gordon said he and Woods, an acquaintance, haven’t discussed impending fatherhood, but he figured things won’t be the same.

“He won’t be the same golfer. I guarantee you I won’t be the same race car driver,” Gordon said.

“That doesn’t mean the results are going to be bad, though. I can’t really answer that question until it comes. I think it’s going to put a lot of things in perspective for me.”

Gordon acknowledged any post-birth struggles on the track likely will be linked to being a distracted dad.

“If my performance falls off for any reason, I think that’s going to be the first thing that’s going to pop up,” Gordon said. “That’s expected. It’s a story.”

But how can a guy with nearly $85 million in career earnings, a supermodel bride, a baby on the way and a Cup series lead complain?

“It can be very easy to forget how good you’ve got it,” Gordon said.

“I try to remind myself as often as I can and I tell other people around me: Don’t forget to remind me that life is good.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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