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VICS: Jeff Gordon Reflects on Driving F1 Car at Indianapolis

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Few men have had the success behind the wheel of a race car, at some of the world’s greatest tracks, than Jeff Gordon.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for example, has been a place in which Gordon has wheeled cars of all shapes, speeds and sizes. He has a illustrious career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series here – winning a record five times including the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 – and will drive the Corvette Z06 pace for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“I’ve never experienced the thrill of a car, in any other experience, like I did that day.” – Jeff Gordon

But one Indy experience that Gordon will always remember was driving a Formula 1 car around the Grand Prix circuit in 2003.

The opportunity was shared with a then F1 regular Juan Pablo Montoya who swapped his Williams F1 machine with Gordon’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“As far the experience of driving a car. I don’t even know if I can put into perspective,” said Gordon during a press conference on Sunday prior to the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

“I drive race cars all the time, but it’s more for the competition. It’s not for the thrill of what the car can do and the speed and the grip level. That day I drove that Formula 1 car, that’s what it was all about.”

Driving an F1 car on the oval would’ve lacked the realism. Gordon tackled the Grand Prix course where the F1 U.S. Grand Prix was held from 2000 to 2007. Gordon left the line and surprised everyone with his pace. However, reality kicked in on the opening lap as Gordon over-corrected and quietly drove through the grass.

“I got to fulfill the ultimate  in what a car is capable of doing, which blew my mind,” said Gordon. “I didn’t think a car was capable of doing what that car did because I had never driven anything like it.

“(A car) that slowed down that fast and accelerated that fast and stuck in the corners like that that gave the feedback in the wheel that car gave.”

With Gordon’s fire-flared helmet sticking out of the legendary white and blue Williams livery, Montoya believed that braking zones would be the most difficult adjustment for the four-time Cup champion. However, as Gordon expressed after pulling into the garage area, the toughest part was getting out of the car as he exclaimed “Oh my god! That is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

Fast forward to 2015, Gordon mirrors his first impression from 12 years ago.

“Honestly,” the 43-year-old concluded. “I’ve said ever since then, I’ve never experienced the thrill of a car, in any other experience, like I did that day.”

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About Zach Catanzareti

Zach Catanzareti serves as a Contributing Writer in the NASCAR department for Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@zachracing) for the latest NASCAR updates. A native of Easton, Pennsylvania, he also follows IndyCar and Formula 1.

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