When fans run up to Gordon's window, they're usually armed with video cameras. "Once I heard a noise," says Jeff's wife, Brooke, "and looked and saw someone videotaping our cat through the window." The Gordons are seeking refuge in Highland Beach, Fla., just north of Boca Raton, because the populace is used to having celebrities around.
Over the years NASCAR drivers have gravitated to the Charlotte area—home to most Winston Cup teams—as a matter of convenience. "But a lot more drivers have airplanes now," says Gordon. He and Wallace own Learjets, which make commuting from Florida to North Carolina for meetings with crew chiefs and engineers easy.
Both Gordon and Wallace concede that they were warned about living on the open water by another longtime Lake Norman resident, fellow driver Dale Earnhardt. Indeed, Earnhardt—who has since moved to a secluded estate with a hidden cove—joked that he might as well make money off Gordon's and Wallace's folly by buying a boat and ferrying fans on tours of their houses.
Americans Slow To Fill Vacancy
The most common charge Indy Racing League partisans make against rival Championship Auto Racing Teams is that the richer, more prestigious circuit ignores hungry U.S. drivers in favor of Europeans and South Americans who buy rides by bringing in lucrative sponsors. That notion is being debunked by retiring CART veteran Bobby Rahal, who is seeking a replacement for himself for 1999.
At week's end only one American IRL driver, Greg Ray, had inquired about the impending vacancy at Team Rahal, and that interest came just last week, after cable-TV racing shows reported that Rahal had received no applications from Americans. Rahal, 45, has been looking for a successor since last November, and the job he's offering is more financially rewarding than any in the IRL.
"For all the talk about people not getting opportunities," says Rahal, "I'll bet 99 percent of my calls and letters [about the opening] have come from guys in Europe, South America and other international racing—and not one has mentioned bringing sponsorship with him." Rahal's team is already well financed by Miller Brewing, and teammate Bryan Herta is backed by Shell.
"Americans are as good as anyone else," says Rahal, a Dublin, Ohio, native, "but it comes down to desire—whether a guy really wants it. You hear all the criticism of Brazilians and other international drivers [dominating the CART circuit], but they work hard, and they live away from home in a strange country. They're here because they want to race. For our team, it doesn't have to be an American. We want someone who is capable of running up front."