FYI WIRZ: Champions in NASCAR and NHRA Share Star Power Thoughts

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIIMarch 12, 2014

Jeff Gordon answers questions during NASCAR Daytona Media Day
Jeff Gordon answers questions during NASCAR Daytona Media DayCredit: Dwight Drum

Assuming that star power is not made of star dust is reasonable, but to find the elusive origins of stardom in a digital world is no easy task. If it were, we’d have an overabundance of stars in motorsports, the music industry, all professional sports and beyond.

It is prudent, though, to seek thoughts from those who have seemed to leap to the top, whether it was a slow crawl or rapid lunge might reveal more about what it takes to be at the pinnacle of an extremely lucrative endeavor.

Many stock car drivers, local actors and countless musicians, never rise above their limited territory. Quite simply, the ranks of the unemployed include musicians and actors. And many stock car drivers, musicians and actors must seek other jobs to fuel their lives. 

It’s the purpose of this star power series to seek a few stars that might know all about rising to the top. This second focus in a series includes champions in NASCAR and NHRA.

This reporter recently asked more than 30 NASCAR drivers and celebrities, many of whom are nationally renowned, a question about star power. 

The access was made possible to select individuals, arranged by the Homestead-Miami Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. and Daytona International Speedway during Speedweeks.

Seeking comments from Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Joe Gibbs and Jeg Coughlin Jr. after starting the series with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Larry the Cable Guy, is a good way to dig to the bottom of what launches just a few to the top.

You’ve got star power or you know a lot of stars. The question: What do you believe champions, celebrities, top actors and comedians, rock and country stars have that sets them apart and helps them to rise to the top?

Four-time NSCS champion Gordon knows much about winning, trophies and camera time. He performs equally well in motorsports and television. 

“It's a great question, and I do think there are common denominators among different fields that seem to separate those that become successful and those that don't.”

Gordon pointed out the value of preparation and fate.

“Sometimes it is a lucky break, but I feel like first you have to recognize the talent and then you have to really work hard at taking that talent to the next level, and then you've got to be at the right place at the right time.”

Gordon emphasized scenarios that probably come from a lifetime of observation. 

“Some people that are just super passionate about it that maybe don't quite have the talent but they find a way to work harder to make it work, and then there's others that have all the talent in the world and don't put enough effort into it and never make it.” 

Stewart agreed with Gordon about having the right mix to get the best results.

“It’s always been desire,” Stewart said. “You can have desire and not have talent and not be successful. You’ve got to have the combination of talent and desire.”

Three-time NSCS champion Stewart has learned the troughs and valleys of competition and excellence. 

“You have to have the ability to inevitably take a big loss. That’s what great athletes, great stars whether in the music industry or professional sports, that’s what makes them rise. Knows how to talk to people, be a great leader and has got great talent.”

Gibbs has the special honor of being coach for three Super Bowl wins and team owner for three NSCS championships. His take on achievement has impressive credentials.

“That’s one we have all wrestled with and that’s the reason we admire them so much,” Gibbs said. “Because some guys just seem to be able to grab--they have a way of stepping up and performing great in the biggest events.”

Gibbs narrowed the qualities that prevail to a select few.

“I think very few people have that. How many guys want to drive race cars?—10,000. And then you wind up with 50 that get to do it and inside the 50, you probably wind up with less that can actually win a race. Twelve? It’s a select few that have the gift.”

Five-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Coughlin has brought expertise from drag strips and his family performance parts business, JEGS Mail Order, to his evaluation process that began in childhood.

“Whether you are a rock star or a racecar driver or a pro athlete of any sort, football, baseball, golf, it always boils down to someone who has a good process, a good plan, is mentally strong and able to execute that plan,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin shared respect for success. 

“It’s also somebody mentally strong who is able to execute the audible when they need to. The cream always rises to the top whether it be in a motorsport, business or any profession. It’s fun to watch.” 

Gordon summed up this star power quest well.

“You certainly have to have that lucky break, and I say lucky break, to me you make your own luck by how much effort you put into it.”

Comments from these four great champion celebrities certainly indicate what it takes to get to the top. Although their achievements can’t be copied like a printer might reproduce text or images, dedicated hopeful champions can take what they say and apply it.

Like Gordon and others said, it takes a little luck to rise to the top. All seem to agree that successful people make their luck, if persistent. 

Tony Stewart smiles between questions at NASCAr Daytona Media Day
Tony Stewart smiles between questions at NASCAr Daytona Media DayCredit: Fastlines

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.