Q&A with Jeff Gordon's step-father John Bickford about CMS and Gordon's career
There is one thing that Canadian fans are craving - a race on an oval in their home country. However, looking across Canada, there isn't a facility that could host an event.
Jeff Gordon is all about trying to change that by working with Paxton Waters in trying to build a one mile oval in Fort Erie, Ontario. The land is bought, and the project for the Canadian Motor Speedway is in the planning stages.
CMS officials were at the Canadian Motorsports Expo powered by Inside Track Motorsports News this past weekend and on hand was Jeff Gordon's step-father and business manager John Bickford.
Bickford answered some questions about the track and Gordon’s career……
Some of your thoughts on Canadian Motor Speedway
My thoughts are we’ve been trying to get a race up here since 2004. Jeff Gordon, he has believed that Canada has needed a race since we went to Japan in 1998. Why are we going to Japan? Why aren’t we going to Canada? When we went to Mexico – why are we going to Mexico? Why aren’t we going to Canada? Well, they don’t have a track. So build a track. We build tracks all the time so let’s build a track in Canada. Jeff has always wanted to come to Canada. He and I were here in 1989/1990. We’ve always been big supporters. Canadian race fans have supported Jeff throughout his entire career. So I think the idea of giving back is an important component. We’re just advocates of giving back to the Canadian race fans and we’re not giving up.
Jeff as a kid
As a kid, he was racing and he was very focused on his racing and he was quiet, very much the same person he is now. I don’t see a lot of change in him. Even with the notoriety and the awards and all that, I still see him as the same. Always thinking about other people – he was like that as a kid.
Getting Jeff started in racing
He was racing bicycles around where we lived. His mother didn’t like the bicycles so I knew about quarter midgets so I brought a quarter midget home. He fell in love with it and we took it to the race track to see if he liked it and he did. He always loved cars. As a one year old, he liked cars. Sort of a natural thing for him.
The moment you knew he was going to be good
I don’t think. I think my philosophy is you’re not thinking about that. It was just about building up to that next level…..So there’s not in my mind one point that I didn’t believe in him. Like I believed in him from the first moment he drove a car. I always believed we could go farther and farther. It was always keep your head down and work hard towards the next opportunity.
Do you think it’s easier or harder now to get kids involved?
One thing is it wasn’t easy for us. I think if you look back at Jeff’s career, you see a lot of firsts to do a lot of things. When you’re the first, it’s definitely not easy. I think Jeff was the youngest guys to do it and he opened the path way for all the young guys. I think what happened is the world is changing and financial aspects have changed. I think other things have changed because with more doors opening. More parents are out there doing go-karts, quarter midgets, compared to when Jeff was doing it, there was only four or five kids doing what he is doing. Before there was not a lot of supply for a lot of demand. Now there’s not enough demand for supply.
You still have to want to do it. One of the neatest guys that is coming up in racing is Kyle Larson and he has unusual skill. If you look at him, I see a lot of similarities between his career and Jeff’s
Advice to parents who want to get their kids involved
I think they need to chart out a plan and stick to a plan. Education has to be apart of the plan. I think today’s kids, what they’re asked of when they get into racing, education is very critical and it’s not so much that they need to be engineers, but a small college education is very very important. It’s important from all aspects. It’s important to work with a team and be educated in mathematics. It’s also important with your English and vocabulary. Also, someone who has a successful college education has had a lot of life experience.