By Barry Janoff
September 27, 2012: Jeff Gordon may be 12th in the current Nascar Sprint Cup chase, but he will be first in the hearts of kids and fans of Team Umizoomi, an animated show on Nickelodeon.
The four-time Nascar champion, who drives for Hendrick Motorsports, takes on not only animated brethren to tout the next episode (Sept. 28), but a geometric foe, as well, who has turned the wheels on his No. 24 car from round to triangle. The conundrum is resolved when Team Umizoomi — Milli, Geo and Bot— use their "mighty math powers" to help Gordon and pre-school viewers solve the problem.
The episode, The Great Shape Race, goes beyond the airtime on Nick. A promo spot featuring Gordon has been anchoring marketing, and the episode will live on via several interactive and social media activations that encourage kids to race along with Gordon and friends, use math to solve race-related challenges and work on puzzles and other games using numbers and shapes to reach solutions.
In the episode, according to Nick, "UmiCar and DumpTruck try to race against each other toward Shape Mountain in order to win the big prize: a magic Dodecahedron. However, Team Umizoomi needs to keep a watchful eye on DumpTruck, who will stop at nothing in order to win."
Going animated is not new for Gordon. He also is teaming up with Nickelodeon's rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with elements including a TMNT paint scheme for the Oct. 13 Bank of America 500 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will support the Drive To End Hunger organization.
In the promo spot, Gordon is about to enter a race when he notices something strange about his car. "Huh!? Triangles!" Gordon exclaims when he looks at the tires on his vehicle. "Where's my pit crew?"
Then it's Team Umizoomi to the rescue. "We can help, Jeff," they exclaim. "Your wheels are in no shape to race."
"You got that right," answers Gordon. "Is there something you can do about that?"
Looking at the triangular wheels, they exclaim, "Circle! Super shapes!" The problem is resolved when the round wheels appear in their proper place.
"Thanks," smiles Gordon. "I'm going to run circles around those other cars." (See the full spot here.)
According to Nick, the show, and this episode, encourage "viewers at home [to] use their mighty math powers including shape recognition and counting." The online elements at NickJr.com include the Umicar Shape Race game, the UmiCar Crafting activity, the Shape Race maze, the Umi Shape Mountain poster and the Umizoomi board game.
"My kids, that’s all we DVR, that’s all we watch is Nickelodeon programming . . . The kids love racing and they love the paint schemes."
“To have a cool car like this, I know the kids are going to be excited about it,” Gordon said in a statement. “They love Nickelodeon. My kids, that’s all we DVR, that’s all we watch is Nickelodeon programming . . . The kids love racing and they love the paint schemes. As a parent now, these types of moments are very special.”