This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 2, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: I have been looking forward to this one.
He is a winner yet again, but it did not hurt that Jeff Gordon was in front of this, a massive pileup at [Sunday's] NASCAR (search) shocker at Talladega Superspeedway (search). Fortunately, no serious injuries in this one, and, fortunately, for Gordon, his win moves him back up the NASCAR charts and into our studio.
With us now, none other than four-time NASCAR winner Jeff Gordon (search) and one of his most recent backers, Daniel Lalonde, the president and CEO of Tag Heuer North America.
Welcome, guys, to both of you.
JEFF GORDON, NASCAR DRIVER: Thank you.
DANIEL LALONDE, CEO, TAG HEUER NA: Hey. Thank you.
CAVUTO: Had he not won, would you have suited up with him or no?
LALONDE: Oh, well, that's a very good question, but it was already done, actually, at the end of last year. So, we signed up with Jeff at the end of last year and started our partnership this January.
CAVUTO: I was looking at that pileup, Jeff, and thinking, how did you dodge that?
GORDON: Oh, my goodness. Well, it's like you said. I was ahead of it. So, it's all about timing. And, at the right time, I was at the right place. And it was a huge accident and it took out a lot of really good cars. And we were fortunate to be one of the few that made it out of it.
CAVUTO: Yes. But no sooner does something like that happen, you're spinning around — what do you do in that event?
GORDON: You know, it's actually a very intense mental race, but, physically, it's not too bad. We won the race and did all of the festivities afterwards, flew up here last night, started in the early morning.
I'm very fortunate the fine folks at Tag Heuer put me on a billboard in Times Square (search). So, my face is up there.
CAVUTO: Yes, it's a big deal, yes.
GORDON: It's an inspiring way to get the day started.
CAVUTO: But you are young enough. We were talking about 33 years old, but when you started out, this thing was not that big. Auto racing was not that big. Why do you think it became big?
GORDON: Well, I mean, I have been racing ever since I was 5, 6 years old. So, as a kid growing up, I followed the Indy 500 and certain NASCAR events. But even then, I had no idea that, if I continued on, that it would ever get this big.
And then, when I did get into NASCAR in the Cup Series in '93, it was just starting to take off. And then, you know, we saw the Indianapolis Motor Speedway become part of the schedule, Southern California. And, all of a sudden, the fan base started growing and growing. The network televisions got involved, FOX...
CAVUTO: But when network got involved, I mean, you were a personable face for this. This is no offense. We were joking about this during the break here.
CAVUTO: But I think that, prior you to coming in, there were a lot of very neat guys, but kind of scary guys.
CAVUTO: And then you came along and you put a good face on it. Do you think that made a difference?
GORDON: Well, most people, I guess, for years, thought, to be a race car driver, you have to be intimidating looking.
CAVUTO: Right. Right. Most of them were.
GORDON: And they were.
CAVUTO: Especially when they wore sunglasses indoors, you knew this was not going to be a good interview.
GORDON: I believe we're all intimidating when you put a 3,400-pound car pound car underneath us.
Well, of course, you haven't seen my wife driving.
CAVUTO: But, Daniel, you hooked up with him. What does it mean for you? What do you get with that association?
LALONDE: Well, I think Jeff and Tag Heuer really share the values, which are about prestige, performance and precision. It's what we started. Tag Heuer has always been associating itself with celebrities like this.
CAVUTO: But you are also seeking out younger folks, right?
LALONDE: Well, we are. And, in our roster today, we have Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, and Uma Thurman. And we thought Jeff Gordon was the perfect ambassador for Tag Heuer.
CAVUTO: Have Uma and Jeff ever shown up at an event?
LALONDE: Well, interestingly enough...
GORDON: Are you starting something?
LALONDE: I won't start something. But the photo shoot which was done for the new campaign on the same day last year, Jeff was right before Uma, so they kind of just met very, very briefly.
CAVUTO: Yes. Uma knew who he was, right?
LALONDE: Oh, of course.
CAVUTO: Of course she did.
LALONDE: Of course.
CAVUTO: I'm curious of one thing, Jeff.
In this whole business, I know you have got so many endorsement deals. I know DuPont, that one alone, everything on you was DuPont yesterday.
GORDON: Right. Right.
CAVUTO: You get millions for that. I'm sure you get millions for this.
Does it take the impetus away from you just being a top racer when you have all these cushy endorsement deals?
GORDON: Well, the thing about racing is, it takes sponsorship dollars to put our racecars out there. And it's a very expensive sport.
So, I think one of the reasons why you see us involved with so many companies is because that's what it takes to actually physically get out on the track.
You know, it's turned into a big business. Now, it's not just, let's slap decals and names. It's marketing, trying to provide the best marketing for someone like Tag Heuer or for DuPont or Pepsi. And then...
CAVUTO: But you are now a brand.
CAVUTO: You were one of the highest paid athletes in the world last year, I think $20 million or something around there.
CAVUTO: It's going to be a lot bigger this year.
I mean — this is something that a lot of people ask of people like Tiger Woods — when you get that big, do you really care about winning races anymore?
GORDON: You know, one thing that's always been the same for me is, it's not racing that I love. It's not, you know, going out and doing a photo-shoot for Tag Heuer. It's being a part of something that's got a team of people together that do something really special.
Being in victory lane and winning — there's no greater high than that. Being today on Times Square and, you know, and being able to look up and see a promotion and a company backing you, that just makes you feel really good and really proud for what you have accomplished over all the years.
CAVUTO: A lot of these endorsement deals have like scandal protection. Do you have that on him in case he ever does anything embarrassing? Not that he would. Not that he would.
GORDON: Yes. Yes. Do you?
LALONDE: That's a very good question. I'm not sure. I'll have to look at the contract again...
GORDON: Do I not have a trustworthy face?
CAVUTO: No, no, no, no. You're the man. All right, you're revving up that engine. It's right outside. You're going to plow through the studio.
LALONDE: It wasn't a really big concern. But where I think Tag Heuer differs from other companies, how we work with people like Jeff, we have, first of all, very few of them.
But Jeff, for example, is helping us design a watch, which will be a Jeff Gordon Carrera limited edition this fall.
CAVUTO: Oh, my goodness.
LALONDE: So, we try to get our ambassadors involved, not only in shooting them for an ad, but they really have to love the brand and know the brand. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense...
CAVUTO: And he does, right?
CAVUTO: He knows it inside and out.
What's next? What do you do?
GORDON: Go to Darlington, South Carolina, this weekend and try to win another race.
CAVUTO: Wow. All right. Jeff Gordon, good having you.
Daniel Lalonde of Tag Heuer, thank you very much.
GORDON: Thank you.
LALONDE: Great. Thanks, Neil.
CAVUTO: All right, so, see, this was painless, right?
GORDON: Painless and fun.
CAVUTO: Because you were copping a little 'tude when you got here at first.
GORDON: I was?
CAVUTO: I thought you were going to look forward to this, but...
GORDON: I did look forward to it.
CAVUTO: Seriously, very good having you. Best of luck to you.
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