08/14/2007 at 08:00 AM EDT
Another championship win is in reach for one of racing's greatest drivers of all time, but for Jeff Gordon diaper duty is just as winning.
"At this point in my life, I've accomplished all the things that I've ever set out to do. I'm still a competitive person, but I'm not feeling like I'm missing out on something," Gordon, who turned 36 last Saturday, tells Rochester, N.Y.'s Democrat and Chronicle
Gordon became a dad to daughter Ella Sofia on June 20
. Mom is Belgian actress Ingrid Vandebosch.
"To me, it's perfect timing in my life to be a father, because I want to be involved, I want to be there," says Gordon. "I'm excited about all the aspects of it and the challenges that come along with it, and there certainly are."
The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champ (whose fifth cup is considered well within sight) and Vandebosch met through friends in the summer of 2002, and although the racer was revving he was also slow to change gear because of a looming 2003 divorce from his first wife, Brooke Sealy.
"We hit it off right away," Gordon says of Vandebosch. "We hung out, stayed in touch and talked, but we really didn't start dating until '05."
He adds, "I held off as long as I possibly could. Because I met Ingrid and I knew that she was an amazing woman, I told her, 'Please be patient, because I don't want to lose you, but at the same time I'm not ready.' "
They wed in Mexico
in November and last month Gordon told reporters that because of feeding and diapering
, "I'm getting sleep when I go to the racetrack these days, not at home."
Just two weeks after Ella's birth, Gordon posted a series of photos of her on his Web site
, and he promises even more to come as she grows up.
"Life has never been better for me than it is right now," Gordon tells the paper. "I'm happy because I've got a new relationship, we're married with a baby and so that can't be any better. On the racetrack, things are going great as well."