Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, announced on Wednesday that 2015 would be the final year he competes full-time in the top division.
The announcement was a shock for many since Gordon had one of his most competitive seasons in 2014, but for Gordon it was a long time coming.
“It is certainly something I have been thinking about for years,” Gordon said. “Rick [Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports] and I have talked about for a number of years. This is the right time. It really came clear half way through last season. Rick kept talking me into going longer and longer and longer; I kept saying ‘No this is the year. No this is the year.’ Finally about half way through last year I said, ‘Nope, this is it boss,’ and we agreed.”
Gordon was careful in the way he worded his announcement as he wanted to make clear that he was not announcing his retirement from racing. ‘Retirement means you go off to a beach somewhere or you know, sit in a rocking chair on the front porch and drink your coffee and pet your dog; that’s not me,’ as Gordon stated.
Gordon was adamant that there will be another chapter to his life. He gave a few ideas of other forms of motorsport he would like to get involved with, but would not officially confirm he would actually take part in them.
“I want to leave myself open, as well, to be able to get in a car,” Gordon said. “It could be a Cup car, it could a Nationwide car, it could be a truck, it could be a prototype for Le Mans or the Rolex. It might not be any of those things. Heck, I was just out in the desert driving buggies and it kind of made me want to do the Baja 1000. I don’t plan on doing any racing, but I know I’m not going to be retiring because I have a lot on my plate already that we have plans for and will be talking about in the future.”
Even though there may be many new and exciting endeavors for Gordon in the coming years, he is focused on trying to win his fifth championship. It is something that has alluded him since his last championship in 2001. He was in strong contention to win the title last year, until an incident late in the season cost him a possible win and shot at the title. Gordon admitted that having already known 2015 would be his final season, was a big reason for his altercation after that race. The titled “Drive for Five” championship run will be top priority for Gordon and team owner, Rick Hendrick in 2015.
Hendrick mentioned that he is only focusing on 2015 and tries not to think about 2016 because he wants to help Gordon win another title and it will be hard for Hendrick to see him go.
“It is surely going to be awkward and strange when I walk into the garage area and I don’t see Jeff sitting in the 24 car,” Hendrick said. “At the same time I’m looking at it like that is a year away, so I want to go out and win the championship with him this year. I just thank him for all he has done to help our company and all the records he’s broken and I look forward to him helping the company grow. He has so much talent in other areas that being a partner he is going to be just a tremendous asset out of the car.”
Hendrick would not say who may replace the 92-time winner, but before Gordon announced his retirement, Hendrick made no secret that he would like to bring 2014 Nationwide Series champion, Chase Elliot, to his Cup team. Many will be gunning for Gordon’s seat, but at the same time it will be an intimidating ride to take over from someone who many consider a legend.