The following article features excerpts from our conversation with Doug Gordon. You can hear the entire interview in this episode of the OnAllCylinders Podcast:
In the context of sports, the word “family” is often tossed around casually to describe a close-knit team.
But when two-time NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car Champion Doug Gordon refers to his race team family, it’s the literal truth.
From his father, former racer Mike Gordon, to his daughters, Maddi and Macie Gordon, the Gordon family is all-in on drag racing.
“Without them, we’re not a team,” Doug says.
“Madison does all the clutch work between rounds. Macie does the motor. She and [my wife] Christina, pull the valve covers off to adjust the valves. I’ll jump down to the oil pan. When Macie’s done, she’s down with me to pull the mains and check the bearings,” Doug continues. “My mom’s there packing the parachutes, and my dad’s working on the computers trying to figure out how to make it go fast. It doesn’t run without them.”
Hat tip to Summit Racing’s Wiley Live for his help arranging this interview. The Gordon Team would also like to thank its sponsors: Beta Motorcycles, MB Cabinets, Lucas Oil, Hoosier Racing Tires, and NGK Spark Plugs.
A Childhood Spent Racing
The Gordon racing story starts with Doug’s mom and dad.
“My parents were racing circle track, and by the time I was born, they were racing sand drags.” When the popularity of sand drags began to wane, the Gordon family jumped to drag racing.
“The only car we could find that was a heads-up class, professional class, was the Alcohol Funny Car class at the time,” Doug says. So the Gordons purchased a car from the former stable of drag racing legend Tom “Mongoose” McEwen.
“We started racing that, and been doing it ever since,” he quips.
At age 12, Doug was data logging for the team and at 16, he was building motors. “By the time I was 20,” Doug says, “I could pretty much do anything and everything on the car.”
Mike Gordon handled driving duties from 1986 through 1993. Once Doug got his NHRA license, his first full season of driving was in 1994.
A Growing Family Finds Growing Success
While the team began with Doug and his parents, once he got married, Doug’s wife and, eventually, his daughters began spending more and more time in the garage and attending races.
But Doug can point to the moment where everything really came together—the Covid-19 impacted 2020 season.
With schools closed during the pandemic, it meant the Gordon daughters suddenly had the chance to travel with the team. “The girls weren’t going to school, so they ended up going on the road,” Doug smiles. “Next thing I know, they became the sole crew.”
And it was the pandemic-impacted 2020 season that the Gordon Team took home its first Top Alcohol Funny Car Championship.
“It was a shortened season, so there was always an asterisk,” he laughs—but any doubts about the team’s performance were erased when the Gordons secured another TAFC season championship in 2022.
“It’s one thing to just race as a family, but to be competitive at it is a pretty good feeling,” Doug beams.
From Father & Son to Grandfather & Granddaughters
“My father is very patient and really likes to explain things, why you do things a certain way,” Doug says. “He’s really into training.”
Doug then go on to describe how Mike works with his granddaughters to show them how to use things around the family’s machine shop. “We have mills, lathes, and welders. He’s taken the time to teach them on that,” he explains.
“I’m a little more impatient,” Doug admits, as he describes the stresses of combining a race season with a full-time job and parenthood. “There are never any weekends where we aren’t working on something,” he says.
But the Gordon daughters are in it for the long haul. After working successfully through the Jr. Dragster ranks, both Maddi and Macie have picked up plenty of other valuable skills along the way—the two are now talented drivers, machinists, and builders.
“They’ve always been in the race cars with us. They love drag racing,” Doug grins.
Passing the 4,000 Horsepower Torch
Now, after grabbing a pair of championships behind the wheel, Doug Gordon is planning his exit from the driver’s seat. And he doesn’t have to look far to find his replacement.
“Both of ’em ran Jr. Dragsters,” he explains, referring to his daughters. “They’re both phenomenal drivers and they’ve got a ton of wins.”
Being the oldest and already a year out of high school, it was Maddi who got the nod. “I don’t think there’s anyone who likes drag racing more than me,” Doug jokes. “But sometimes I debate whether she does.”
In fact, Maddi recently got the chance to audition for the gig at the historic Famoso Dragstrip outside Bakersfield, California. “After that session, the way she handled tire shake, tire spin, the whole procedure, I have no doubt she’ll do a great job” he smiles.
All told, Doug anticipates that the 2023 NHRA Finals in Pomona, California will be his final hit in the car, after which he plans to toss the keys to Maddi for 2024.
But it’s simply a casting change for the Gordon family race team, as Doug describes.
“We’re just swapping seats. We’re doing all the same stuff, but I’m gonna be on the starting line jumping up and down, instead of on the other end of the race track,” he laughs. “It’s a team thing, nothing’s going to really change except for her driving instead of me.”
For three generations now, a love of drag racing has bound the Gordon family together. And as we wrapped up, Doug explained why.
“It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s competitive, and you get to drive fast cars—it’s a great thing to be passionate about.”