STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Story by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — The Daily Collegian/Camille Stefani photo —
The shouts of “We Are!” were heard from Jeff Gordon’s mouth Tuesday during a visit to Penn State University.
Gordon was on-hand to announce a partnership with Axalta Coating Systems and the university to drive a specially-designed Penn State car in the June 7 Axalta”We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono Raceway.
The pairing is a similar partnership to the 2014 season for Gordon, when the four-time Cup champ drove a Texas-A&M themed car at Texas Motor Speedway last April.
“When this university program came about and I heard they wanted to expand it and told me about Penn State, I got really excited,” Gordon said.
He has a series-leading six wins at the Tricky Triangle, where he’ll wheel the No. 24 blue car in June in pursuit of his seventh victory there.
“When I think about NASCAR and a lot of fans that are avid, it’s in the state of Pennsylvania,” Gordon added. “I’ve had a chance to see many Penn State students out at Pocono over the years.”
Axalta CEO and Chairman Charlie Shaver and Penn State President Eric Barron were among several on hand to announce the partnership during a press conference in Penn State’s Business Building.
In addition to the unique paint job, one hundred students will participate in a special program during the June NASCAR activities at Pocono — and will get a behind-the-scenes look of how a car is prepared during a race weekend.
Axalta is headquarted in-state in Philadelphia and Shaver planned to partner with three or four premium universities that specialized in business and engineering education. Last year, he talked with several people, including the company’s Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer, Joseph McDougall, who is a Penn State grad.
“Well, obviously, you got to have [Texas] A&M, that’s my alma mater and a good engineering school,” Shaver said. “We also said Penn State would be the next logical one.”
Gordon nearly won in the Texas A&M colors, before being passed by Joey Logano coming to the white flag in last year’s Duck Commander 500. He looked to make it one spot better at Texas last weekend, but finished seventh in the No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet.
The night before, Gordon joined the broadcast booth for FOX Sports 1’s telecast of the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) race at Texas Motor Speedway, a race won by Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Erik Jones. Gordon is one of several drivers that are scheduled to join the NXS telecasts for FOX Sports.
“I thought it went pretty well, I enjoyed it,” Gordon said. “It was fun and challenging. I’m watching all those races and critiquing it from home, hotel room or bus. It was different because I have an open microphone and I’m having to say it out loud.”
The Hendrick Motorsports driver returns to the NXS broadcast booth for the second-straight weekend, this time at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS). Gordon has five Cup wins at the “World Fastest Half-Mile,” but none there since August 2002, when he muscled his way past Rusty Wallace to snap a 33-race winless streak. He also won the pole for the inaugural Car of Tomorrow race at the track.
Former BMS president and general manager, the late Jeff Byrd, added progressive banking to the layout in August 2007, before Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) executive chairman Bruton Smith ripped up the groove to try to produce similar racing to its predecessor before the summer of 2012.
“I loved when you had to really work hard to run around around the bottom and push shove people out of your way to get past them, that was the old track,” Gordon said. “The newer track is completely different now because the top groove is the preferred groove, but I still think it’s very entertaining and it’s just harder to get that track position and keep it.”
Gordon will sport the 3M colors on his No. 24 car this weekend at Bristol, in search of his sixth win at the Tennessee track.