BRISTOL, Tenn. – After finishing seventh Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon hopped aboard a plane with his wife, Ingrid Vandebosch, and jetted west to catch Coachella.
If the concept of a four-time NASCAR champion attending the country’s trendiest music festival seems surreal, so was his arrival in the Southern California desert.
“It was amazing,” Gordon told NBC Sports after Sprint Cup practice Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Ingrid and I are still kind of giggling about our experience because we landed at this airport, walked off a plane and literally walked into this party in one of the hangars. And it’s a carnival, it’s a DJ, it’s celebrities everywhere. It was really cool. That kind of kicked it off for us.
“I can’t say I’m this avid music festival kind of a person, but I enjoy music, and it was a really cool experience. It was really beautifully done, very first class, and everybody is just having a great time.”
The couple spent Sunday on the festival grounds in Indio, Calif., enjoying acts such as Florence + the Machine (“She jumped off the stage into the crowd and later they announced she broke her foot. My gosh, she’s got so much energy, running all over the place. She puts on a good show.”), Kaskade and David Guetta.
While making the rounds around the six-stage festival, Gordon frequently was recognized.
“One of the bartenders actually had my shirt on, we went up to him and ordered drinks,” Gordon said. “He was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?’ ”
The last place you’d expect to see a NASCAR driver?
“Totally,” Gordon said. “Well, the last place I expected to see somebody in a 24 shirt.”
Gordon said he developed a fondness for the music festival experience last summer when he and Ingrid visited Ibiza, an island off the coast of eastern Spain that is renowned for its pulsating nightlife scene that features electronic dance music. A friend encouraged the couple to attend Coachella after a memorable time in Ibiza.
“It was awesome,” Gordon said. “What I like about Ibiza is it’s not just about the music, it’s the whole entertainment aspect. I’m not really like a connoisseur of EDM. I have to hear music that I maybe hear on the radio or that I know is more mainstream, and then I get into it, but what I appreciate no matter what I’m hearing is the entertainment aspect with the lights.
“They had this guy in a water jet thing doing spins and backflips, spraying water around the crowd. Not to mention, 5,000 people on the pool deck of this hotel in a real famous location. There were girls bringing champagne with sparklers and Star Wars costumes. One thing after another, and you’re like ‘Oh my God, did I just see that?’ It was really, really cool. We’re hesitant to ever go back because we’re afraid we won’t be able to top it.”
He also doesn’t have a repeat visit planned to Coachella, which is entering the second weekend of its annual event.
Gordon said an employee from at his foundation joked that he’s “got great street credit now.”
He could gain even more with his next excursion into youth culture.
“My next thing,” Gordon said with a laugh, “is Burning Man. I want to go.”