NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon definitely knows his audience.
When asked what he liked most about Rehoboth Beach, the four-time Sprint Cup champion said, “The beer is really good.”
Gordon took part in a question-and-answer session with Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione Aug. 20 as he promoted a Sunday, Sept. 28 race at Dover International Speedway. Gordon’s fans, many of whom were clad in shirts and hats bearing his trademark No. 24 and rainbow color scheme, packed the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand. As soon as Gordon and Calagione took the stage, fans crowded in, smartphones aloft, taking pictures and video.
Gordon and Calagione kept the event loose and fun, playfully bantering with the audience.
Milford native and Motor Racing Network broadcaster Mike Bagley served as master of ceremonies asking Gordon about the current NASCAR season, in which Gordon is the leader in the Chase for the Cup. Bagley said this year’s championship looks like it will come down to Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car, which drew a large cheer from the crowd.
“The first thing that comes to mind is ratings,” Gordon joked.
Gordon then took questions from the audience, with the second coming from Jeffrey William Gordon, who told his namesake that saying his name is Jeff Gordon is a great icebreaker in Delaware.
“What is it like being Jeff Gordon?” NASCAR’s Gordon asked.
Several questioners wondered how long Gordon, 43, plans to continue racing after 21 years in NASCAR.
“I’m having the time of my life,” he said. “Why would I ever want to stop that?”
Gordon said he was very happy at age 43, despite a few gray hairs on the head.
“I’ll be honest, if someone had told me at 22 that this is what 43 would be like, I’d say ‘Send me straight there,’” he said.
Gordon was introduced to racing at a young age, racing quarter midget cars when he was 5 years old. He started driving in NASCAR full-time in 1993 at age 22.
Bagley said Gordon was now an elder statesman on the NASCAR circuit.
Asked how he got the No. 24 car, Gordon said when he first started driving in NASCAR, his team, Hendrick Motorsports, had two cars, 5 and 25. Looking for something close to those numbers, Gordon’s team found 4 and 6 were taken, as was 26, so they settled on 24.
Calagione served as the official ambassador for Coastal Delaware and began the day taking Gordon on a tour of the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton. There, Gordon, a winery owner, gave Calagione two bottles of red, while Calagione gave Gordon a collection of Dogfish pints. Gordon tried Noble Rot, a beer-wine hybrid, and Sixty-One, the grape-fermented India Pale Ale, which Gordon declared his favorite.
At the Bandstand, Calagione passed out Dogfish Head hats to everyone who asked a question. To end the event, Gordon challenged Calagione to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Gordon did the honors of dumping the ice cold water on Calagione's head; Gordon said he felt bad for dousing Calagione but both agreed it was all for a good cause.
--Bill Meehan contributed to this story