Gordon turning to 'next chapter' with eyes on success in 2015
By Gray Caldwell
CONCORD, N.C.— Don't use the 'R' word.
Jeff Gordon certainly isn't.
“The way I see myself in the world is that retirement means you go off to a beach somewhere or sit in a rocking chair on the front porch and drink your coffee and pet your dog," Gordon laughed. "That’s not me. I plan on working."
From the NASCAR Hall of Fame Thursday evening, Gordon sat next to Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick and discussed the announcement that 2015 will be his final full-time Sprint Cup Series season.
He said he won't come back for a part-time schedule, and "chances are pretty good" that November's event at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be his final race in a Cup car. But while he wanted to leave the door open to possibly get back into a car of some sort, he said there will be plenty on his plate working as a partner with Hendrick at Hendrick Motorsports.
"I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family but most of all looking forward to that next chapter of my life working with Hendrick Motorsports and other partners," he said. "I don’t plan on doing any racing. I know I’m not going to be retiring."
Throughout Thurday's teleconference, Gordon was asked about his legacy. But Hendrick made sure to note that Gordon "will leave his mark beyond the driving years, too."
"I look forward to him helping the company grow," Hendrick said. "He has so much talent in other areas; being a partner he is going to be a tremendous asset outside of the car."
But before that, Gordon has one more year inside the No. 24 Chevrolet SS. And it comes on the heels of a 2014 season that saw him win four races and finish in the top 10 a series-high 23 times.
Midway through the campaign, Gordon felt that the time was right.
"That is all I could ask for to be at this point in my career, 20-plus years in my career, and be that competitive week-in and week-out," he explained. "I was almost ready to walk away right then, but I wanted to give one more year to my team, to Rick, the sponsors, the fans, my family and myself. And it just seemed like the timing was right to do those things and start that next chapter."
Gordon said he is using the fact that he has yet to win a championship in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format as motivation in 2015, and Hendrick was happy to add a little more fuel to that fire.
"I’m anxious to see the next chapter after we win the championship this year," Hendrick smiled. "Put a little pressure on him."
While there's still work to be done in 2015, Thursday's announcement allowed a brief moment to contemplate what Gordon has meant to the sport.
Hendrick said the driver's appearances on shows like Saturday Night Live and various publications—not to mention his skill on the track—helped bring NASCAR to the forefront of the American public's consciousness.
The fact that he joined the Cup series at such a young age, won a championship in his third year and proceeded to compete at a high level in the sport for more than two decades helped make Gordon, as Hendrick put it, "truly one of the greatest drivers that has ever been in the sport."
“I think that fans will remember Jeff as that young guy that came into the sport that changed the sport," he said.
As for Gordon, when it's all said and done, his hope for his legacy is straightforward.
"Quite simply, I’ll be happy if people recognize me as a great race car driver," he said, "because that’s all I ever wanted to be.”