How does daddy tell his daughter he's fine?

February, 19, 2012
02/19/12
4:57
PM ET

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- How do you explain to your 4-year-old daughter that daddy is all right after she watched him flip three times in a 3,400-pound stock car before coming to a rest upside down?

Jeff Gordon found out when he talked to Ella Sofia the morning after Saturday night's horrific crash in the final laps of the Budweiser Shootout.

Bottom line: Keep her away from mom.

"I showed it to [Ella] on TV," the four-time Sprint Cup champion said Sunday after qualifying sixth fastest for the Daytona 500. "Her first question was, 'Were you OK?'

Obviously, with me sitting there and her sitting on my lap I could explain how I was and she could watch it.

"Had she been awake and heard the reaction of my wife, that would have gotten her more concerned than anything else."

Gordon was joking, but he was serious when talking about the safety innovations in the car and on the track that allowed him to escape with only a stiff neck and small cut on his finger.

And he may not have suffered the cut had he listened to safety workers and waited for them to flip his car upright before he crawled out.

"I'm a little guy," Gordon said. "I felt like I could do it. And I did, but I can tell you it was a lot of work. It didn't go smooth."

Drivers face death every time they climb into a racecar, which separates them from athletes of most other sports and most other families. NASCAR fortunately hasn't had a death in the three national touring series since Dale Earnhardt here on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

The IndyCar Series experienced one in October during the season finale at Las Vegas when Dan Wheldon was killed when his car went airborne and was ripped apart in the catchfence. He left behind a wife and two sons.

"As a parent, all you can do is reassure them of the safety as well as understanding what we do has its dangers," Gordon said. "I think it's tougher as she gets older."

But because all that has gone into eliminating those dangers in NASCAR, Gordon was able to explain that to his daughter with her on his knee and only a cut on his finger.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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