It is hard to believe that at the end of this up coming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season the governing body will be looking for a new title sponsor; Sprint is cutting it’s ties with NASCAR after the 2016 season and the sport will be losing another fixture in the garage area. That fixture will be Jeff Gordon.
Gordon, who started his career in 1992 during ‘The King’ Richard Petty’s final race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on November 15th, 1992, is just starting his victory lap. Jeff Gordon is currently third all time in wins with 92 victories (behind Petty with 200 and David Person with 105) he has four championships, coming up just short this last season finishing sixth in points and ranks in the top five of most statistical categories in the NASCAR history books.
What sets ‘The Golden Boy’ apart from most racers as well was his uncanny ability to cross all spectrums of media and fans. Gordon was the first driver to host SNL, to be in many motion pictures and be a driver who was the face of the company he raced for, DuPont. His rivalry with Dale Earnhardt Sr. stemmed from his clean cut demeanor, good looks and articulate style of racing and speech. Unlike ‘The Intimidator’ Gordon was not part of the beer drinking ‘good ol’ boys’ from the South. He brought in a new crop of young drivers from the West Coast and the Open Wheel ranks; such drivers include: Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.
With his career coming to an end, I immediately thought of the 1997 Winston Cup Series Standings and hypothesized that the top ten finishers from that year are no longer racing. Though Gordon has not said the ‘R Word’ – retirement – he will slow down his competition level at the end of the season. The following is the point standings from that year: 1. Jeff Gordon (won the championship), 2. Dale Jarrett (retired and current NBC analyst), 3. Mark Martin (retired and current driver coach for Roush-Fenway Racing), 4. Jeff Burton (retired and current NBC analyst), 5. Dale Earnhardt Sr. (deceased), 6. Terry Labonte (retired), 7. Bobby Labonte (retired), 8. Bill Elliot (retired), 9. Rusty Wallace (retired and ESPN analyst), 10. Ken Schrader (retired).
A look back further in the standings shows more retirees and deceased drivers, truly a sad thought. Though Gordon will be done driving full time, he told ESPN that that will not be the last of him and he is looking forward to being with his family and other business ventures.
Thanks for all the memories Jeff and good luck this coming season!
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