News Column

Jeff Gordon Becomes a Huge YouTube Star (Video)

March 21, 2013

Don Coble

By now, most people have probably seen the "Test Drive" video where Jeff Gordon shocks a car salesman with a tire-squealing, high-speed test drive.

According to YouTube, nearly 18 million people watched the video in the week following its release, pushing NASCAR away from the race track and into the social media arena.

While Gordon's viral video was created to sell more Pepsi Max, it was another successful attempt by the four-time champion to step outside stock car's traditional boundaries.

His divorce in 2002 was covered by television celebrity gossip shows like "TMZ" and "Entertainment Tonight." In 2003 he became the first NASCAR driver to host "Saturday Night Live."

And a month ago his Hendrick Motorsports race team filmed its version of the Harlem Shake and posted it online.

But nothing compares to his "Test Drive" video.

"I've never been a part of anything like this: a viral video that's gone to this level," Gordon said. "Of course we did the Harlem Shake. We actually did that around the same time. I never dreamed that this would surpass that in views, and get this much attention."

VIRAL VIDEO: Jeff Gordon, Pepsi take car salesman for a 'test drive'

Gordon walked onto a car lot in the video wearing a disguise. The salesman convinced him to test-drive a 2009 Chevrolet Camaro. After acting like the car was too big and too fast, Gordon eventually peeled out of the parking lot and gave the salesman one of the scariest rides of his life.

A couple of the highlights in the 3-minute, 46-second video is the salesman screaming for his life, calling Gordon an "idiot" and yelling he was responsible for any damage.Part of the drive included a couple of near misses with an oncoming car.

Gordon said it was his idea to push Pepsi Max to think outside the box with some of its advertising campaigns.

Although he's considered a world class driver, a stunt driver was used in some of the filming.

"It is very time consuming, that's why we had to use a stunt driver," Gordon said. "You only have so much time over a two-day period as to what you can do. That was something I would have liked to have done, and I think I could have pulled off 90 percent of it. But it's pretty standard practice to have a stunt driver fill in for you."

SALESMAN'S REACTION

While Gordon's part was staged, the reaction of the salesman wasn't, Gordon said. That's why the video quickly became viral.

"Those reactions were real. I mean, this guy was terrified. It was so much fun with me interacting with him," Gordon said. "But then to get to see his reactions in that car when it is sliding sideways. ... If you aren't somebody, even if you are a race car driver, being in the passenger seat is uncomfortable when somebody is doing things like that. That is what makes it so great. It is like everyone is debating, is it real, is it fake? I can tell you, those reactions -- there was nothing fake about that."

Brad Keselowski took NASCAR in new directions a year ago when he sent messages through Twitter during a red-flag delay at the Daytona 500.

Danica Patrick took that to a new level during an eight-day stretch at this year's Daytona 500 when she had 971 million impressions on Twitter, according to Repucom.

These ventures into new media are more reflective of new attitudes of drivers who don't want to be restrained by tradition.

"When I did that, I knew I was putting myself out there quite a bit, and that's sort of unfamiliar territory," Gordon said. "You look at yourself and you go, 'OK, I'm either going to look really dumb here, or this is going to be a hit and people are going to laugh.'

"I know how much fun I had doing it, but after watching, I thought they did an awesome job editing it, making the whole thing really come together and be a lot of fun.

"I laughed my butt off, to be honest. I've watched it probably six or eight times, and every time I've just cracked up."

Along with the rest of us. Jeff Gordon Present: "Test Drive"


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Source: (c) 2013 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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