On his MadisonAvenue appeal
I spend a lot oftime in New York City, for business or pleasure, so that feeds into thatnotion. Also, there aren't many guys in our sport who enjoy experiencing someof the things that I have. I have a love for wine. I started a brand of wine[the Jeff Gordon Collection] last year. Also I came into the sport from outsidethe Southeast [California and Indiana], and I am a little more clean-cut andpolished than some of the guys. But I am just as hard-core and as true of aracer as anybody.
On his feud withMatt Kenseth
I've realized overthe years that controversy brings you more fans than just winning and doinggood things. As I've gotten older I am no longer afraid to show my emotions andto speak up. Earlier in my career I was more guarded. Maybe I've gotten morefans because of the spats, but I am not getting into it with guys so I can gainfan support.
On fiancée, modelIngrid Vandebosch
When the rightgirl comes along, you're able to let your guard down and be yourself. There'snothing better than sharing your life with someone. I went through the divorce[in 2003] and I dealt with being single, [but] I am a happier person when I'min a committed relationship.
On his musictaste
I like R&B andhip-hop. That's what I grew up listening to. I like 50 Cent, Dem FranchizeBoyz, Juelz Santana and T.I. Nelly mentioned me in one of his songs [2000'sE.I.]. He put me on the map, and I thank him all the time.
On hitting thewall at 200 mph, which he did last month at Pocono
That's the onlytime fear really comes into play as a driver. You don't know what the outcomewill be, how much it is going to hurt or whether you are going to survive. Yousee the wall coming, but you have no time to react. Your heart rate goes fromnothing to through the roof in a split second. When it's over you are checkingyour limbs and looking around, like, wow!
When I came intothe Cup series [in 1992] I started winning and hearing cheers. Then in '95 Iwon seven races and was battling Dale Earnhardt for the championship. [Gordonwon the first of his four Cups that year.] That's when I got separated frombeing a fan favorite and started hearing boos. Ever since then that's kind ofbeen the way it's been. But Earnhardt told me himself that as long as they'remaking noise, you're doing your job.
On missing theChase last season
It was frustratingand shocking. It made us more focused in terms of getting ready for thisseason. I want to be in the Chase to battle for the championship, not to justmake it in 10th place. That was even more frustrating than not making theChase--knowing we were not contenders for the championship.
GORDON, 34, ISNINTH IN THE NEXTEL CUP STANDINGS AND ONE WIN SHY OF TYING DALE EARNHARDT FORSIXTH IN CAREER WINS (76).
Photograph by Michael J. Lebrecht II/1Deuce3 Photography