ORANGE, Calif. — Robby Gordon stood outside the Southern California home where his father and stepmother were found dead a day earlier. The man who had faced fear and danger in hundreds of elite auto races had to take a deep breath to hold back tears.
“I’m so sad, and I can’t believe it,” the former NASCAR star said Thursday. “I grew up on this property my whole life. I learned everything about motorsports out of this little tiny barn over here.”
Soon after, police announced how they believe the two died: Robert Gordon, 68, strangled his wife, 57-year-old Sharon Gordon then fatally shot himself, Orange police Lt. Fred Lopez said. No further details on the motive or circumstances were released.
Robby Gordon, 47, said he would speak about the deaths in more detail once authorities conclude their investigation.
“The truth will come out, what went down there,” he said.
Robby Gordon owns the house where the two were found, one of a few on the property, and had given it to his father.
The elder Gordon also had three daughters, one of whom, Beccy, had just had a baby boy with her husband, 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The younger Gordon recalled how his father, a racer known as “Baja Bob” in the motorsports community, instilled in him a love of speed and competition in the Orange County neighborhood 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where many residents own horses and dirt riding trails line the suburban streets.
Robert Gordon started out in horse racing at the local track in Los Alamitos, California, before getting into auto racing.
“He taught me at a young age that one horsepower wasn’t going to be enough — go do something different,” Gordon recalled his father saying. “And I was fortunate enough to do something different.”
Robby Gordon currently races in an off-road series he created in 2013 called Speed Energy Formula Off-Road, following the path of his father. He previously raced on numerous racing circuits, from NASCAR to IndyCar to Champ Car and IROC.
Gordon said an event featuring his off-road racing team scheduled for this weekend in Orange County will go on as planned. Hunter-Reay plans to drive in his race in Sonoma, California this weekend to.
Residents in the upscale Orange neighborhood shared stories about the deceased couple’s friendly ways — swapping jokes with neighbors, gifting tickets to racing events and delivering feed personally to local equestrians.
“I can still see them walking hand in hand, walking their dogs down the street,” said John Reina, who lives across the street. “To kind of wrap your head around this tragedy is very hard to do.”
Racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that he was praying for the Gordon family. “Hope they find strength and support,” he said.
“Heartbreaking news this morning. Thinking of the Gordon family and friends,” NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson said on Twitter.
Known for his aggressive style, he earned three wins in parts of 19 seasons in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He was a full-time driver early last decade and finished a career-high 16th in the points standings in 2003 driving for Richard Childress Racing. Gordon last raced in the Sprint Cup in 2012.
Gordon is one of only four drivers, joining John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch, to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. He nearly won the 1999 Indy 500 before running out of fuel in the closing laps.
Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles and AP freelance writer Mike Cranston in Chicago contributed to this report.