Three-time Cup champion Darrell Waltrip admits that the birth of his daughter Jessica in 1987 made him less of a risk-taker behind the wheel.

"I drove differently," Waltrip wrote in his autobiography, 'DW: A Lifetime Going Around In Circles'. "I was more cautious because up to that point I never believed I had much of anything. ... I never thought about getting hurt, but then after we had Jessica, I thought, 'Man, if I get hurt ... what would (wife) Stevie and this little baby do?' It changed the way I drove."

Jeff Gordon doesn't think the birth of his daughter, Ella, in 2007 has changed the way he drives, but there have been some major adjustments to his lifestyle.

Gordon talked about those changes with Sporting News' Reid Spencer...

"I may sound like a terrible father, but when I start the engine and I put the helmet on, I'm not thinking a whole lot about family at that time. I'm thinking about winning the race. But I can tell you that the second that chequered flag was waving (after the first Duel at Daytona), the first thing on my mind was that I can't wait to see Ingrid and Ella in victory lane. Maybe it's just that switch that's up there for me.

"There's no doubt that being a parent has changed me - not how I drive or my focus on driving - but I'm not used to getting up at 6:30 in the morning. It's taken me a year to really get into that mode. I think a lot of it's because I'm interacting with (Ella) so much more now that she's talking. And as she's growing, I see my role as a father becoming more and more involved, and I love it.

"I don't think I ever said last year that it didn't take a toll on me, that it wasn't affecting me. It just wasn't what everybody else thought. Everybody thought, "Oh, well, you're just being more conservative; you're not being as aggressive." That's not it. That's not it at all. It's that I'm not sleeping. I'm showing up at the racetrack trying to hold my eyes open because I'm sleep-deprived, and she was up crying at three in the morning, and I'm trying to be a good husband - not necessarily just a good father - and play my part, play my role.

"I think now here we are 20 months into it, and both me and Ingrid have a better understanding of the routine. Just like yesterday, I spent the night in the bus because I knew that it was important to me to get a good night's rest. I learned that last year. At Texas, the worst race that we had, the first Texas race, we're like, "OK, she's sleeping now through the night, so we'll bring her with us to the racetrack" - and she was up all night.

"I knew my car was not where I wanted it to be, and I knew that Texas was a challenging track for me already, and I had the worst day I could ever imagine. It was because I didn't get any sleep. It wasn't because I was not wanting to run it loose I think we learned a lot from that week - the way our travel habits played a role - and so, this year, those are some things that are going to help me focus.

by Jeff Gordon, as told to Reid Spencer



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