The Amelia will let NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon explore his “car guy” side
Now in its 28th year—the second with Hagerty as the steward of the event—The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is shaping up to be one for the ages. NASCAR star Jeff Gordon is the honoree, and the grounds will feature a display of some of the most important cars from his racing career.
The Amelia is held in Amelia Island, Florida (just north of Jacksonville), March 3-5, on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Aside from Sunday’s concours, there will be multiple auctions, as well as family-friendly activities like Cars ‘n’ Coffee, the outrageous Concours d’Lemons, featuring some vehicles that would not be invited to display on the main grounds; and RADwood, a celebration of the cars from the 1980s and ‘90s.
Gordon, his crew chief Ray Evernham (who will also be at The Amelia), and McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance Agency, spoke on a Zoom call about the fast-approaching weekend.
“The event was founded in 1996 by Bill Warner, and Hagerty is so honored to become the steward of this incredible event that has become a favorite in the automotive world with this combination of concours d’elegance, auctions, and events happening all around it,” Hagerty said. “Amelia is a racers’ concours, so we get to celebrate great cars but we also get to celebrate great personalities.”
A central goal of Hagerty’s business, he said, “is to help save driving and to fuel car culture for future generations. Last year was the first full year we produced the event—big footsteps to follow in with Bill Warner—but we wanted to make a lot of investments, some of which were behind the scenes in that first year to help make the event run a little more smoothly, and more will happen this year.
“We have the same format—we’ll ramp up leading to the big events which will start on Saturday, which is the “Cars and Community” day,” he said. “Of course the big event is Sunday, when we’ll have more than 250 cars and 32 classes.
“Amelia is an event where the velvet ropes come down. People are paying meaningful ticket prices to come to an event, and they need to be able to get around these cars, talk to the owners; they need to be able to see what these cars are in a respectful way. No car is too precious for somebody to look at.”
As for Gordon, “I’ve been talking to Ray for years about getting down to Amelia—he always raves about what a great event it is. So I’ve been trying to get there for several years, but little did I know my first experience would be as an honoree, and to join that list of past honorees is incredible. I’m very excited—my family is looking forward to it, and I can’t wait to spend some quality time with the folks down there.”
Gordon, 51, is now the vice-chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, the racing team that was responsible for all of Gordon’s NASCAR Cup wins. He raced full-time in NASCAR from 1993 to 2015, and has four championships, 93 victories, and three Daytona 500 wins to show for it. “Jeff doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness,” Evernham said—Gordon competed in 797 consecutive races through 2015.
Gordon isn’t quite through as a driver. Last September, Gordon raced to an eleventh-place finish in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America series on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course—a track and a 500-horsepower car that were completely unfamiliar to Gordon, who again had Evernham as his crew chief. Both said they plan to return to the series, and possibly do some historic racing, in which Evernham is a regular driver and car owner.
Evernham, 65, is the co-founder of the Superstar Racing Experience, which takes some of the top drivers from various series and places them in identical cars on usually unfamiliar tracks. It’s a lot like the old International Race of Champions (IROC) series, which gave Evernham his first shot at a career in motorsports. Evernham recently auctioned off much of his sizable car collection, but says he’s still in the market for IROC cars from the past, and for some Ferraris in general. He said he’ll be paying “close attention” to the cars that will be going up for auction at The Amelia.
By Gordon’s side for most of his NASCAR career, Evernham will again be by his side for a seminar at Amelia, and he will moderate a seminar on the Chevrolet Corvette’s many successful trips to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Evernham has always been a “car guy.” Gordon, on the other hand, said that term really didn’t apply to him until after he retired. That’s one reason he’s excited about appearing at Amelia–“I’m really looking forward to seeing all the classics they’ll have there.”
Some of those classics will include at least four Chevrolet NASCAR cars that Gordon raced, as well as one of his USAC sprint cars and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype car that Gordon drove to victory in the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona, along with co-drivers from Wayne Taylor Racing.
The Amelia has always been a charity event, and that hasn’t changed, as The Amelia has donated over $4.14 million to Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, Community Hospice and Palliative Care and other deserving charities from Florida’s First Coast and beyond.
It’s a great car show, for a good cause. “I’ve become a car guy,” Gordon said. “I know that sounds funny, because I’ve always raced cars, but it was always about getting behind the wheel and going as fast as I can. But now I’m a car guy, where I’m collecting cars, wanting to know everything about cars, know what the latest, greatest car is, and all about the art and history of automobiles. But that’s who I’ve become. I’m spreading my wings into the car culture.”
Information on activities and tickets can be found at Ameliaconcours.com.