Parenthood is a unique experience, some will say. A time when you realize just how great life is.
Welcoming a child into the world can bring the toughest individuals to tears and make anyone weak in the knees. Children become the pride and joy to those that are lucky enough to have them.
Offspring of NASCAR drivers automatically become as famous as their fathers.
Ella Sophia Gordon, at least until February, is the NASCAR baby that gains attention every time she appears on pit road with dad Jeff. Who can ever forget the first time she appeared in victory lane with him at Talladega?
“That was cool, man, that brought a tear to my eye,” Gordon said. “I hope one day I win a race and her actually being able to say, ‘You won Daddy.’ That would be the coolest thing ever. Just having her there was amazing and that made this win that much more exciting and memorable.”
When a driver becomes a father, it could be the perfect excuse for why they don’t deliver on race day. Lack of sleep and focus could be cited.
One only needs to look at how Matt Kenseth’s season progressed. He started the year by winning the first two races of 2009: the Daytona 500 and then California.
But after announcing wife Katie was pregnant and followed by the birth of his daughter, Kaylin Nicola, in early July, Kenseth began to backslide through the standings. He went from 10th to 13th by the time the Chase arrived, missing it for the first time, and failed to win a race for the remainder of the year.
Of course, that was pure coincidence.
However, Kenseth’s racing pals haven’t seemed to suffer the same fate when they became part of the fatherhood club.
Aforementioned Jeff Gordon welcomed Ella, his first child, in June of 2007 the same year he set new records in the NASCAR history books. He also came just 77 points short of winning his fifth championship.
Teammate Jimmie Johnson got the best of him.
The best during the 1970s, '80s, and for much of the 1990s were Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip.
Halfway through the 1987 season Waltrip was struggling. Even though he was sitting fifth in points, he had no wins in his No. 17 machine.
But ten days after first daughter Jessica was born, he went and won at Martinsville. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life, and it made the struggles at the shop and on the track seem a lot less important,” he wrote in his book.
While it was his lone win of the year, he would finish fourth in points. And in 1992 he became a father again to a girl he named Sarah. That year he won three races and ended the year ninth in points.
Old friend and NASCAR legend Earnhardt welcomed his second daughter with new third wife Teresa during the Christmas holidays of 1988. Taylor Nicole became a common face in victory lane, including the famous kiss on the cheek from the 1998 Daytona 500.
Daddy’s little girl brought him luck following her birth, though, when in 1989 Earnhardt finished second in points and captured the checkered flag five times. With Taylor, Earnhardt was able to finally be a part of his child’s life, pick her up from school, and take her hunting.
Going hunting is something that Elliott Sadler will no doubt instill in his first born in March.
Sadler is expecting a baby boy with wife Amanda. He tweeted, “The Sadler name lives on, my dad gets his first grandson. Said he is going to buy a go-kart and a shotgun to get ready.”
Baby boy Sadler will be outnumbered in the motor home lot, though, because the Edwards' will be adding to the girl's list a month earlier in February, just around the time of the Daytona 500.
“It’s crazy. You guys that have children know this. But we went in there for the ultrasound, the first one, and I’d seen all the pictures of what the baby was supposed to look like, and I was sitting there and all of a sudden it started moving, and I almost passed out,” Edwards revealed.
“It was just wild...I was hoping it wasn’t a boy, but that was pretty exciting.”
Ella Sophia Gordon and Kaylin Nicola Kenseth will have two more friends to grow up with in a NASCAR infield, just as many NASCAR children have done before them. They’ll also be able to join the daughters of Casey Mears and Sam Hornish Jr., both of whom were born in 2008.
And just like the greats before them, Sadler and Edwards will be hoping their little bundles of joy will bring them luck in the 2010 season.
Sadler hasn’t won a race since 2004 but was 30 seconds from winning the Daytona 500 in 2009 before Kenseth passed him and the rain came. He finished the year 26th in points and could be on the hot seat.
He becomes a potential 2011 free agent and has already lost Best Buy as his 2010 sponsor.
Edwards on the other hand, will be looking to rebound from his 2009 slump. After nearly winning the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series championships in 2008 with 16 wins across the two series, he went winless in 2009 and finished 11th in points.
Welcome to the NASCAR fatherhood, guys. Let's hope 2010 is a big year for you on the track like it will be off it.