AVONDALE, Ariz. – Jeff Gordon says his latest viral video ad is "the most incredible thing I've ever done."
Gordon and sponsor Pepsi Max followed up last year's "Test Drive" -- which has garnered more than 41 million views on YouTube -- with a second prank-style video ad this week.
The difference is, unlike the first video, "Test Drive 2" was real.
Jalopnik.com writer Travis Okulski gets taken for a wild taxi ride by an alleged ex-convict who turns out to be Gordon in disguise. Okulski was picked because he was one of the loudest critics of the first video, which he correctly identified as fake (Gordon didn't do all the driving; the salesman was an actor, etc.).
"When you look at all the comments from the first video, I think that it was really the bloggers, the media, the fans, it was everybody really challenging us to go and do this because of their comments of saying, 'Hey, Jeff wasn't driving the car or this or that wasn't real,' " he said Friday at Phoenix International Raceway. "We wanted to go out there and show everybody how authentic and how real this can be."
Gordon said he and the crew had a safety word – "Nebraska" – in case something went wrong. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion said he came very close to calling off the prank when a terrified Okulski began freaking out in the back seat.
"When I first took off and I hit about 80 mph and he started kicking that glass, I came this close (to saying 'Nebraska')," Gordon said. "You don't know what that situation is going to be like until you have that person in the back of the car that is really scared.
"I just knew that it's all going to be over very quick and luckily when I opened that door and saw that smile on his face, it made it all worth it."
The adrenaline and exhilaration of pulling off what Gordon said was a "near-impossible" stunt left him feeling like "I had just won the Daytona 500." The video already has more than 5.5 million views in one day.
Gordon said the planning for "Test Drive 2" took eight months, because everyone from Pepsi to Jalopnik had to coordinate and get Okulski to come to Charlotte under false pretenses.
When asked how many lawyers had to approve the video and how the process was completed, Gordon said:
"That's why this was an eight month process. ... The coordination of getting Travis there without knowing what was going to happen, but yet also taking into account liability and waivers and all those things, obviously we still had to get his final signature at the end, but we had everything else in place with Pepsi Max."
But there was only so much planning Gordon and the crew could do. Once Okulski was in the taxi, anything could happen.
"That's why there was such an adrenaline rush with it and the fact that I knew I had this guy's safety in my hands," he said. "I put a lot of pride into making sure that it was done safe and so did Pepsi Max.
"I don't know if you'll ever see this done again, I'll be honest, because it was that risky. We did it and we can now laugh and Travis can laugh about it and we can all enjoy the risk that paid off."
(Can't see the video below, see it at http://bit.ly/1eAA41L)