By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
SPARTA, Ky. -- It's hard to believe Jeff Gordon can go anywhere without being recognized.
With the possible exception of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gordon has the most readily identifiable face in NASCAR racing. After all, Gordon has co-hosted on television with Kelly Ripa, he has his own brand of wine and his "Q" rating reaches far beyond his accomplishments on the asphalt.
Yet Gordon can ride the train with son Leo from Manhattan to Yankee Stadium and take in a ballgame in relative anonymity, as was the case when Gordon took Leo to a New York Yankees-Texas Rangers game on Thursday.
"I saw one couple looking at me, but they didn't say anything," Gordon said Friday at Kentucky Speedway. "Nobody said anything to me. I would say 99 percent of the people on that train had no idea who I was.
"At the game, once I got inside, there were several people that came up to me and were really kind and everything, but it wasn't a distraction from me and Leo being able to have a special moment."
The ride home mirrored the trip to the stadium.
"We got back on the train, and not one single person said anything to me," Gordon said. "And that's one of the things I love about New York. I go through that on a day-to-day basis up there. When you do get recognized, it's actually a moment where you're like, 'Wow! I can't believe somebody recognized me in New York City!' "
Perhaps Gordon should rethink selling his 3,500-square-foot Central Park West condo, which he put on the market for $30 million in May.
After all, you can't put a price on privacy.
Danica Patrick received a ration of grief on Twitter last weekend at Sonoma Raceway when a candid photo caught her emerging from a Ford Fusion in the paddock lot.
Patrick drives a Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, but there was no brand disloyalty involved. In fact, the explanation was as simple as it was predictable. The Fusion was a rental car belonging to boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who drives Fords for Roush Fenway Racing.
Because of heavy traffic headed into the track, Stenhouse was cutting it close for a team meeting. Patrick offered to park the car in the paddock lot at the far end of the main grandstand, down a steep hill from the main road into the raceway.
"For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you would have seen that it was taking a really long time to get into the track, and he had a team meeting at the top of the hill," Patrick said. "That was a long walk, and he was going to be late if we parked down in the paddock area.
"So, being the nice girlfriend that I am, I said I would just drive the car down and park it, and you get on with your meetings. So, it was really as simple as that."
As Patrick discovered, however, in the days of omnipresent cameras and instant sharing, nothing is quite that simple, no matter how well-intended.
Matt Crafton finished third Friday night in his Nationwide Series debut in his first opportunity to drive a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. The finish was no surprise, given his talent; more unusual was how long it took Crafton to get behind the wheel of a Nationwide car.
Crafton has had NNS offers in the past. He was simply waiting for the right offer, and this one came together with the help of sponsors Menards and Rheem.
John Menard, founder of the home-improvement retailer, lobbied for Crafton. So did son Paul Menard, a full-time Sprint Cup driver for RCR and an occasional driver of the No. 33 Nationwide ride Crafton took to a podium finish on Friday.
Menards sponsors Crafton's No. 88 ThorSport Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where Crafton currently leads the points standings. Aggressive on the track, Crafton was the very model of patience when it came to delaying his NNS debut until the time was right.
"I guess I was picky," he acknowledged after the race. "I've had the opportunity to go run Nationwide cars, and you're going to run 15th at best. I would rather go Truck racing and know that I can win -- win races and win championships.
"That means a lot more to me. At the end of the day, to run 15th to 40th in a Nationwide race -- that doesn't matter to me. ... I wanted to drive something good, and it came down to Menards making this happen."