Jeff Gordon May Be Retired,
But His Legacy Is Golden
After Ending On A Stellar Note This Season, The Former Outcast And California Kid Is Much More Than Just A Former Open-Wheel Racer, He Is One Of The All-Time Greats
By Joey Hancock
Modern Times Magazine
Nov. 24, 2015 — Jeff Gordon has come to the end of his momentous NASCAR career and throughout the season every track he has raced at has provided special events and special gifts to respect the driver who helped changed the sport and make it what it is today.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey named Nov. 15 Jeff Gordon Day and what is usually known as Phoenix International Raceway was named Jeff Gordon Raceway in respect of the final ride of one of the greatest race car drivers to ever put on a fire suit.
Before race tracks were renamed and days were honored, Gordon had a long way to go to make his name and the impact on the sport of racing that would eventually turn into one of the greatest careers in all of sports.
At the Hooters 500 NASCAR race in 1992, the major storyline was Richard Petty, the king of NASCAR, who raced his final professional race, but at the same time a young up-and-comer named Jeff Gordon made his debut. It wouldn’t be long before this young kid from California would make his mark on the sport and fill the void that Richard Petty left.
In 1992, Richard petty’s heyday had long since past and it was the time of “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt. Gordon would soon upset that fixture and become a rockstar within the sport.
NASCAR during the early 1990s was dominated by Southern drivers and there had never been a driver like Gordon in the sport. The closest thing to come to the brashness of Gordon was Tim Richmond during the 1980s. The sport seemed to not know what to do with this young kid coming into the sport from a completely different way than anyone else had ever entered.
Gordon grew up racing go-karts, sprint cars and quarter midgets. All of these cars were open wheel vehicles and no one had ever made a legitimate crossover into NASCAR from open wheel racing. Gordon was different.
Gordon burst onto to the scene during the rest of the 1990s and became a four time Winston Cup (back when cigarette companies could put their name on such things) champion. He now has 93 career victories which places him third in the all time wins category behind Richard Petty and David Pearson.
With all of the wins and the four championships, the impact of Jeff Gordon goes much farther than just statistic history.
Gordon helped bring NASCAR into the national spotlight with rivalries against Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace helping add to the enigma that was Gordon.
As the 1990s came to a close, the next chapter to Gordon’s career took place after the death of Earnhardt. Many prognosticators and fans turned to Gordon as the leader in the garage where Earnhardt once played that role.
The wins stacked up throughout the 2000s and as Gordon entered his final race on Nov. 22 in Miami, he had one more chance to make history: a fifth championship.
Gordon said many times throughout the season that this season has been a bit of a fairytale and being one of the finalists in Miami with a chance to win a fifth championship only added to the mystique that is Gordon.
“I’m excited about our chances and the opportunity and our team is fired up working on the Homestead car,” Gordon said at the rain shortened race in Phoenix two weeks ago. “We know we have some tough competitors to go up against and I love Homestead and can’t wait to get there and tune it up and go race.”
Gordon has had an up and down year and was able to make the playoffs on points and after winning at Martinsville a couple of weeks ago punched his ticket into the final four for the race for the championship.
“When I set out into this season and made my retirement announcement I just hoped that this could possibly happen and it is and now it isn’t enough just to go down to Miami and be a part of it,” he said. “We have to push hard and get everything we can out of our team and give these guys a run for their money. In my final race I can’t think of anything sweeter than going down there and racing for a championship.”
Joey Hancock contributors to Modern Times Magazine.
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