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NASCAR Great Jeff Gordon Unveils New Penn State Ride With High-Octane Cruise Through Campus

by on April 14, 2015 6:19 PM

It was a scene that could have been straight from the Daytona 500: Jeff Gordon in his trademark Number 24, rattling eardrums and ribcages with 650 horses of heart-racing speed and power.

Except Gordon wasn’t laying down rubber at a racetrack, he was burning up the pavement on Curtin Road in front of Penn State's Berkey Creamery. The NASCAR superstar tore through campus, the sound of his roaring motor overpowering the sound of cheering crowds. 

Gordon came to campus on Tuesday to unveil Number 24’s new paint scheme for the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in June: blue and white, with “Penn State” prominently painted on the sides and bumper.

“It’s not every day that I get to drive this car around a college campus,” Gordan said to an enthusiastic crowd of Penn State students and loyal fans. “I got encouraged to do a few burnouts, so I had to put some rubber down to leave my mark.”

But why was Gordon at Penn State in the first place?

He was also there to promote a new partnership between the university and Axalta Coating Systems, an international company whose logo is familiar to Jeff Gordon fans -- it's right on Number 24's hood. In addition to sponsoring Gordon and Team 24, Axalta is also joining forces with Penn State to promote the importance of science, technology, engineering and math education.

“This is a great place to get the education you need to become successful,” Gordan said of Penn State. “…I didn’t get to go to college, and that experience is such a valuable one."

He said that STEM education is becoming increasingly important in virtually every industry -- including motorsports like NASCAR. He encouraged every student in attendance to find their passion, take full advantage of their Penn State education and make their own opportunities in life. 

Check out our video below to hear more of Gordon's thoughts on Penn State, the importance of education, and the challenges he'll face in his next big race at the Pocono Raceway in June -- the first race with his new Penn State-themed car.

Penn State president Eric Barron also spoke, reminding everyone that he’d been using the metaphor of a racecar to represent the college experience. Now that his metaphor has become a reality, he wants to use Penn State’s partnership with Axalta to encourage his students to be the best they can possibly be.

“When you think about what it takes to turn an automobile into something that beautiful and powerful, that really pushes engineering students to new heights,” Barron said.

A handful of lucky engineering and business students got the opportunity to meet Gordon in person on Tuesday, but one student got to take things a step further.

Olga Vinogradova, a junior in chemical engineering, got the rare opportunity to sit in a special passenger seat in Number 24 as Gordon motored around campus – which she excitedly calls the “highlight of the semester.”

“You can feel the power of the engine when you’re sitting in the car,” Vinogradova says. “When he presses the pedal, you really feel it in your bones. It’s not like driving a truck, or anything else.”

Huntingdon resident and “huge Jeff Gordon fan” Bill Altmanshofer says its little things like Gordon’s ride with Vinogradova that make Gordon such a good role model: he’s kind, he’s down-to-earth, and he makes time for his fans.

Altmanshofer says he got the chance to see Gordon’s “rainbow car” in person several years ago, but he says he enjoys the new blue-and-white layout even more.

“Penn State and Jeff Gordon together – it just doesn’t get better than that,” he says.

Photo Gallery - Jeff Gordon at Penn State



Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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