In addition to fan well-wishes and trips down memory lane, individuals within the NASCAR community have shared their sentiments since Jeff Gordon announced Thursday morning that 2015 would be his final season of full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action.
Here’s a statement from NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, released by NASCAR:
“Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race. We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season. His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe. Today’s announcement is a bittersweet one. I’ll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Jeff for his years of dedication and genuine love for this sport, and wish him the very best in his final season.”
Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart took things one step further, offering Gordon a one-off gig in his first year of not racing full-time. After a tweet on Thursday that read, “Can’t imagine being at the track without @JeffGordonWeb. I don’t think I would have ever had my opportunity without Jeff paving the way,” Stewart sent out another tweet to Gordon on Friday with an offer for 2016.
“Since @JeffGordonWeb is not exactly retiring, I will pay show up $ plus Norm’s truck for the @MudsummerClass for 2016.”
– Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart)
For those who don’t follow the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the Mudsummer Classic is the dirt race ran by the Truck Series at the Stewart-owned Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, and the Norm Stewart referenced was Norm Benning, who has become a Truck Series fan favorite, especially when the circuit visits Eldora.
While Gordon insisted on Thursday that he wasn’t retiring, he did seem to downplay the notion of running any other races. He did, though, stress the fact that he would still be very busy and remain in racing, in some capacity, beyond the 2015 season.
Still, it was fun to take Stewart’s lead and come with a list of things for Gordon to do, specifically, races to run after 2015. The Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway is a great idea. And here’s a few more events to add to the list for 2016 and/or beyond:
NASCAR Xfinity Series and/or Camping World Truck Series races in addition to or other than Eldora — To me, these seemed like the most logical options. I guess that’s because Xfinity and trucks are other NASCAR national level series. Anyway, thought I’d get the seemingly obvious option out of the way first.
Chili Bowl — Why not? It would be a return to his midget roots.
Indianapolis 500 — A.J. Foyt has said in the past that he’d consider fielding cars for Gordon and/or Stewart for the Indianapolis 500. Stewart has said in the recent past that he has no Indy 500 plans since shifting much of his focus to team ownership, but what about Gordon? He doesn’t really have those obligations. Okay, so he does have an ownership stake at Hendrick, specifically of the No. 48 team, but it’s not the huge stake Stewart has over at Stewart-Haas.
A Stadium Super Trucks event — Why did I throw this one in there? This series was started and is owned by former NASCAR competitor and another Gordon, Robby Gordon. I’ve kind of gotten the impression that Robby Gordon left NASCAR with sort of a bitter taste in his mouth, so to speak, and I don’t know what the Gordons’ opinions are of each other, so I don’t know where either man would stand on this idea. But then again, I’m thinking this may be more along the lines of a Jimmie Johnson post-NASCAR option, anyway, given his roots.
Rolex 24 at Daytona — He competed in this event in 2007. Why not make a second appearance in an attempt to improve on his team’s third-overall finish of 2007? Fellow NASCAR competitors like Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson and A.J. Allmendinger seem to consider this race a yearly must-do; maybe Gordon could join them.
There are other, possibly, far-fetched ideas in my head, like the Baja 1000 and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. I don’t know why those popped into my head. I guess it’s because they’re just something different.
Anyway, maybe because Gordon didn’t seem to have much interest in continuing to compete as a driver beyond 2015, judging by some of his statements from his teleconference on Thursday afternoon, I don’t really see Gordon competing in another race as a driver beyond the 2015 NASCAR season. Maybe I read something into his statements that wasn’t there I actually hope that’s the case, and I’m wrong.
What do I see for Gordon down the road? Other than family man and philanthropist, I see a possible TV broadcasting career paired with providing driver coach-type input at Hendrick Motorsports. But, if Gordon does feel the need to scratch that competitive itch from behind the wheel in the future, there are sure to be plenty of options available to him. Stewart’s already stepped up to offer one.