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And, just like that, Jeff Gordon rocked the NASCAR world.
Don’t worry if you didn’t hear the news. When Jeff Gordon announced this was his last year of competitive racing today, much of the sporting world was focused on New England. Patriots Head Coach, Bill Belichick was addressing the dreaded #DeflateGate controversy at the same time Gordon was making the announcement.
There’s never really a right time to announce something like this is there? When an athlete knows, some try to fight it and continue on. Others, know it and leave on their own terms. Jeff Gordon is doing it on his terms today. Not leaving racing completely, but the grinding long-haul that is the NASCAR season and Race for the Chase is done.
As a non-NASCAR fan, I didn’t get it for the longest time. Get in a car and drive around an oval. Okay, part of me still thinks that. But, as in other sports, technology and fitness have changed NASCAR racing. It takes a certain amount of athleticism to drive, react, adjust and endure in NASCAR racing. The driving of today is nowhere near what it was back in the 60’s and 70’s (not that I watched it, but you know…).
When Jeff Gordon came along, you could say he was viewed as a “pretty boy” of racing. He didn’t seem to quite fit the mold of what fans considered a race-car driver. But then…he raced. And, he won. On top of that, he went mainstream. He became a face with non-NASCAR fans like me. Oh I knew of the “King” Richard Petty and his peers. But, he didn’t resonate with me like Jeff Gordon did. His commercial endorsements are how he became a name to me.
In 2011, Business Insider put together a list of athletes who made more money through endorsements than in their sport. Surpassed only by fellow driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and golfers Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, Gordon had made 76% of his money through endorsements. As of June 2014, Forbes lists Gordon as the 86th highest paid athlete in the world.
Today, Jeff Gordon and Pepsi go hand-in-hand. Especially for these recent Super Bowl commercials.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I never did become a NASCAR fan. Not sure that I ever will. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a respect for those who are (like my friend Keith F.) and those who work in racing. I get it. And, I get why Jeff Gordon could be polarizing to die-hards. He wasn’t like the old-school racers that fans had grown to love. He was his own type of racer, at least from my perspective. I could be wrong, but I believe he helped take the sport beyond the confines of the South.
And, it hasn’t been the same since.
IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG
— Trendsmap Charlotte (@TrendsCharlotte) January 22, 2015
DON’T CALL IT RETIREMENT
#NASCAR … Jeff Gordon: “ … and there’s always the possibility I’ll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans 2 do that"
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) January 22, 2015
IT’S FITTING, DON’T YOU THINK?
It was so fitting that Jeff made his Cup debut in The King's final start. He's picked up that crown and worn it well.
— The Orange Cone (@TheOrangeCone) January 22, 2015
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) January 22, 2015
Very few have done as much for our sport as @JeffGordonWeb. Nothing but respect for one of the greatest that's ever raced.
— Regan Smith (@ReganSmith) January 22, 2015
I feel so lucky to say I have raced against my idol and favorite driver growing up @JeffGordonWeb… ready for one more year against you.
— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) January 22, 2015
Hard to imagine this is @JeffGordonWeb last full season. Tons of respect for him and what he's accomplished thus far. A total professional.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) January 22, 2015
— Liz Allison (@Lizallison28) January 22, 2015
Congratulations to @JeffGordonWeb one of the best drivers of all time and one of the sport's best ambassadors. Truly a class act.
— Tom Jensen (@tomjensen100) January 22, 2015
Great sentiment from @nascarinsider. Gordon is undoubtedly going out while still a top performer in the sport.
— Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) January 22, 2015
Not every driver/athlete gets the chance to do that. As a Rusty fan, I appreciated he went out as a Chase driver.
— Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) January 22, 2015
— Curt Cavin (@curtcavin) January 22, 2015
We'll retweet a few of our favs. pic.twitter.com/Nkx88eEbS5
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) January 22, 2015
MORE TO IT? POSSIBLY
“@wfbasser: @Noble_Jim does this have anything to do with Chase Elliot possibly being with the team next year?” Just a little …. 🙂
— Jim Noble (@Noble_Jim) January 22, 2015
NO DOUBT A BOON FOR BUSINESS
— x – Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) January 22, 2015
— Brett Jewkes (@BJewkes) January 22, 2015
— mike macrae (@mmacrae24) January 22, 2015
Always will be the best. Amazing career. @JeffGordonWeb
— Preston Morris (@prestonm234) January 22, 2015
— Rob Tiongson (@RobTiongson) January 22, 2015
THE ONLY WAY TO END THIS POST
Jeff Gordon is retiring after this season, which hopefully means more moments like this in his future.https://t.co/zpQUXU0Plg
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 22, 2015