Changes In Latitude

HARRISBURG, N.C.- - Twenty five years ago, Jimmy Buffett fled Nashville, Tennessee running from a failed marriage and a litany of debts. He wound up at the end of the road in Key West, Florida where he made his fortune as the singer-sailor from Florida. What does Jimmy Buffett's plight have to do with Jeff Gordon? Not a whole lot. Except that they will soon live in mansions within a few miles of each other on the east coast of Florida. Buffett in Palm Beach and Gordon in Highland Beach.

As a result of the increased popularity of NASCAR
The house on the lake
Due to fan intrusions, Jeff and Brooke are moving from their home on Lake Norman.
racing, the drivers have become celebrities; albeit on a smaller scale than Michael Jordan, Barbra Streisand, or Tom Cruise. Nevertheless, the lack of privacy has been a concern to a number of drivers on the Winston Cup circuit for some time. Since most of the drivers live on Lake Norman in North Carolina, fans don't have to look far to find a recognizable driver.

Jeff's wife Brooke told Ed Hinton of Sports Illustrated that she recently heard a noise in the backyard; it was a fan videotaping their cat through a window. As a result of the lack of privacy on Lake Norman, they've decided to move to Highland Beach, Florida, just north of Boca Raton. Though Charlotte is in the hub of racing and is conducive to meetings with team members, "A lot more drivers have airplanes now," Gordon said. He owns a Learjet which will make commuting from Florida to Charlotte easier.

Dale Earnhardt, in his younger and more formative years, lived on the now-popular lake. However, due to fan intrusions, he moved to a secluded estate located within a cove on the lake. He has since warned prospective home buying drivers to avoid the open areas of Lake Norman. Gordon and Rusty Wallace heard his warning, but bought on the lake anyway.

Early in 1997, Wallace built a waterfront mansion on the lake. Wallace has considered moving after some events that have occurred at his house. He told Hinton that on Memorial Day weekend, he counted 70 boats in front of his house. One fan even jumped over his seawall and walked around his property looking in the windows. A boatload of fans will yell, "Hey Rusty! - we're rooting for you," he said. "Then another boatload will yell, 'Hey Rusty, F--- You!' I love fans, and I never hide from them at the track. But when I'm at my house, I want some time with my family," Wallace said.

While most race fans see such intrustions as minor and probably somewhat comical, they're not. Besides breaking trespassing laws, and showing extremely poor taste, the actions of those fans can be viewed another way. Most everyone in the sports world remembers what happened to tennis player Monica Seles in Paris in 1993. She was stabbed in the back with a knife by a fan of her opponent. While no such event has happened in the NASCAR world, the increasing popularity of the sport makes driver security an issue.

Fans intrusions into the lives of famous people is nothing new; it's a sad reality of society. It's a peculiar paradox though. The popularity of the sport that has allowed the drivers the means to live on the lake is now driving them away from it.

JG Online

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