By David G. Firestone
The date was November 15, 1992. I was 10 years old at the time. Superman had just died. Windsor Castle is on fire. In Atlanta, Georgia The Hooters 500 was held. Going into that race, Davey Allison, Bill Elliot, Alan Kulwiki, Harry Gant, Kyle Petty, and Mark Martin all had a shot to win the championship. Richard Petty was starting his final race in his legendary career. But the one thing that went almost unnoticed was that a young driver, who had won three Busch Grand National Series races earlier that year was making his first NASCAR start.
22 years, 10 months, 15 days, and 789 consecutive starts later, Jeff Gordon went from fresh-faced rookie to 4 time champion, 3 time Daytona 500 winner, 5 time Brickyard 400 winner, and has won just about everything a Sprint Cup driver can win. In 8 weeks, his famed career will come to and end…for now at least. I don’t think he’ll stay retired for long. He will get back into the car at some point.
Jeff Gordon in his prime was one of the least-liked drivers in NASCAR. A young, handsome kid from California racing in a traditionally southern sport wasn’t immediately liked. However, even if you hate him, it’s impossible to argue with what he did on the track. He is third on the all-time wins list with 92, a place that won’t soon be broken.
It truly feels like the end of an era. Jeff Gordon was the new face of NASCAR when he debuted, and now, he is hanging up the driver suit and helmet, for a wool suit and a microphone, when he joins FOX Sports next year. That famous #24, which never had a win before Jeff got in will be in good hands, specifically those of Chase Elliott. The torch is being passed yet again.
On behalf of all racing fans, I send a thank you to Jeff Gordon. We cheered you, we booed you, and we will miss you at the races.
Then we have a second swan song season in two years, this one is for Tony Stewart, who has announced that 2016 will be his last full season. Stewart, a three time champion hasn’t had the same legacy as Gordon, with injuries and controversies surrounding his career. While he only has 48 wins in the Sprint Cup, he also has 11 wins in the Xfinity Series, and 2 Truck Series wins. He is also a Indy Racing League Champion as well.
These decisions are not easy for drivers, as they love what they do. But easy decisions, and right decisions aren’t always the same. Drivers will often return to racing in some form, as they do miss being in the car. I hope that they have great retirements and great lives!