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Hendrick Motorsports drivers discuss newest teammate Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final full-time season " Elliott to drive No. 24 car in 2016 CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jeff Gordon had been watching Chase Elliott for years. Some say the young driver from Dawsonville, Georgia, reminded them of a young Gordon . Equipped with raw talent at a young age and a drive to succeed – not to mention an incredible pedigree – Elliott seemed like the next big star. And for Gordon , he checked all the boxes. "When I'm looking for talented drivers – the ones that I'm thinking are championship-caliber," Gordon said at Charlotte Media Tour presented by Technocom on Thursday. "You're looking for ones that improve throughout the race, handle a certain situation calmly or improve throughout the season. And he has all those qualities and then he gets out and says all the right things." Team owner Rick Hendrick’s announcement of young Elliott's move to the No. 24 car in 2016 was met with awe from the racing world and excited reactions from his newest teammates: Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne . Like Gordon , Earnhardt -- Elliott's XFINITY car owner at JR Motorsports -- had been watching the budding star for years and anticipated the No. 9 driver's move to Hendrick Motorsports for a while. "I think Chase is going to have a long career and to have a little part in that is something I can hang my hat on years down the road," said Earnhardt, who watched Elliott seize the XFINITY championship during his rookie season in the series. "I know Rick picked him out of a crowd and said 'That guy is the guy' at a very young age." RELATED: Can Elliott defend XFINITY title? " Elliott's championship timeline The announcement also came as no surprise to Johnson. "It just felt right," Johnson said. "It seemed right. I had a feeling it was coming, knew it was coming and it makes perfect sense. "You can't put anyone in the 24 for a lot of reasons and to have somebody with a father that accomplished so much, somebody that really understands and respects the sport.” The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion reflected on watching Gordon in his younger days and admiring him as a driver. Later on, he would come to respect him as a close friend and teammate. But while he recognizes that his longtime colleague is irreplaceable, Johnson looks to a new era with Elliott. “Chase is a great fit to go in the car and the best thing is he knows he's not trying to fill Jeff’s shoes," Johnson said. "He's going to go out there and be Chase Elliott and just continue on in the history of the 24." WATCH: Gordon says No. 24 car in good hands " Elliott not looking to 'fill somebody's shoes' For Elliott's soon-to-be shop-mate Kahne, Elliott is exactly what Hendrick has been searching for with his next driver. "He's everything that Mr. H likes," Kahne said. "So I feel like he's a perfect fit to get in that 24 and do what Chase Elliott does. It's going to be pretty neat to see him in the car." Elliott's task in 2016 is both daunting and thrilling for the young star. And Gordon can’t wait to watch his familiar vehicle piloting around NASCAR’s tracks from the unfamiliar sidelines. "He's the total package," Gordon said. "And it's very exciting to see him be the driver that’s going to be driving the 24 car in the future." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon talk about handing the reigns over to Chase Elliott while Jimmie Johnson relishes stepping out of the spotlight.
NBC Sports on-air analysts Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte weigh in on Jeff Gordon's announcement that 2015 will be his last full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Rick Hendrick thanks Jeff Gordon for the impact he has had on NASCAR, and Gordon talks about his mindset headed into his last full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Clint Bowyer shares his view on Jeff Gordon's final full-time season
No changes to postseason, but flared side skirts will be policed RELATED: 2015 Charlotte Media Tour schedule, live video CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The way NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France sees it, no news is good news, as far as potential changes to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format are concerned. In confirming that the sanctioning body will stand pat with its 10-race playoff format this year, France indicated that one of the primary governing factors in the decision to keep the Chase status quo was the overwhelming response from fans. "I want to talk a little bit about the Chase, because it's overwhelmingly popular with the most important stakeholder -- our fans," said NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France in kicking off the Charlotte Motor Speedway NASCAR Media Tour presented by Technocom at the Charlotte Convention Center. "The research and data that we've got over the winter not only suggests that, it determines that loud and clear. "They like the fact that it tightened up competition. They liked the drama down the stretch. They liked the emphasis on winning. And one of the things they told us that they really liked is the idea that we weren't going to change anything, and they strongly suggested that we didn't, and we're not going to." Accordingly, the 16-driver Chase will use the same criteria for determining driver eligibility and the same elimination format for determining the champion. "It's not because there aren't a tweak or two here that we didn't get good suggestions on," France said. "but one of the magical parts of this Chase, and we want to make sure we keep it this way, is the simplicity of it: Win and you get in; be in the top eight, top four, whatever it may be, and move on; coming down the stretch, beat the other three drivers and you win the championship. "So whatever we would do into the future, we want to make sure that simplicity is right there." The Chase aside, it’s not as if there won’t plenty of changes for fans to embrace in 2015. Perhaps most highly visible is the new pit road officiating system that combines video and computer technology with a smaller number of officials on pit road. A sophisticated computer system will make cut-and-dried calls and will flag possible violations (such as pit crew members over the wall too soon) for review and verification by a team of eight officials at computer terminals in a trailer. The input for the system consists of approximately 46 high-definition cameras mounted above the grandstands. Overall, the new officiating system promises to provide more relevant data to television partners, media and fans. "We already know that 2015 and the edition of the Great American Race ( Daytona 500 ) will forever have a chapter in the sport’s history," said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "It will be the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event to utilize our new pit road technology, and if you haven't heard of the innovation, you soon will. "At the heart of this, its purpose is the ability to provide an extraordinary experience to our broadcast partners, the race teams, and ultimately our fans. We're going to do this by way of statistics, video, and data during a NASCAR event. And with this technology, we know that we're going to be safer, we'll be more exact, and we'll realize a fairer and more balanced playing field." RELATED: Inside the new pit road technology O'Donnell also addressed the issue of side skirts on the cars, which teams have used to improve the aerodynamic performance of their cars. In 2015, manipulation of the fenders and flares no longer will be permitted, and teams will be required to return to pit road when a violation is detected. RELATED: NASCAR to police flared skirts in 2015 NASCAR teams will have to adapt to a new rules package on open-motor tracks this season, one that features lower downforce numbers (via a smaller spoiler) and reduced horsepower, factors NASCAR hopes will make the racing even more competitive than it was during last year’s first 16-driver Chase season. France stressed that the new rules package is a work in progress, as NASCAR continually strives to improve the quality of its on-track product. "It'll always evolve, and the reason for that is the teams are always trying to gain an advantage, and that's what they do," France said. "They go out, whatever we package we present, and they try to lead every lap and they try to have an advantage, and so our job is to make sure that the playing field is level and that more teams have a good shot at competing at a high level. "And given that it always changes, we have to change, too, and circumstances change. Tires change, tracks wear down differently. We change tracks from time to time. So there are other variables outside of what even the teams do that will always keep us looking ahead." Closing his speech, France spoke about NASCAR Sprint Cup Series four-time champion Jeff Gordon 's announcement that 2015 would be his final full-time season. "From everyone at NASCAR, I want to wish him a strong final season," France said. NASCAR also unveiled its new Drive for Diversity class for the 2015 season. Competing under the auspices of Rev Racing will be returnees Devon Amos, 23, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico; Jay Beasley, 23, of Las Vegas, Nevada; and newcomers Collin Cabre, 21, of Thonotosassa, Florida; Dylan Smith, 22, of Randolph, Vermont; Natalie Decker, 17, of Eagle River, Wisconsin, and Kenzie Ruston, 22, of El Reno, Oklahoma. Ruston already has two years of competition in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where she finished ninth in the final standings last year. Also speaking on changes at the track, Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood provided updates on Daytona Rising, the major redevelopment project at the Florida track. "We have 40,000 new seats open and available for the Daytona 500 ," Chitwood said. "We're going to change the way fans enjoy our sport." The track now features a wider concourse for fans to walk and new escalators that will make travel to seats and concession stands easier. NASCAR.com staff reports contributed to this story.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO, Brian France, reflects on Jeff Gordon's retirement announcement and wishes him well on a final full season in the Sprint Cup Series.
Owner of Eldora feels sad, but says offer to race at dirt track is open
Veteran has 92 career wins, four premier series titles MORE: NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France statement on Gordon " Gordon hub page RELATED: Drivers react to Gordon's announcement " Fans share favorite Gordon memories Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday morning that this will be Jeff Gordon 's final season competing for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. The four-time champion announced the news to his No. 24 team Thursday, saying he hesitated using the word "retirement" as he enters his 23rd and final full-time season. Letting team know this will be my final year competing for a championship. pic.twitter.com/s7aH8OpGQZ — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) January 22, 2015 "As a race car driver, much of what I've done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions," Gordon said in a release provided by the team. "I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason, and I've decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship. I won't use the 'R-word' because I plan to stay extremely busy in the years ahead, and there's always the possibility I'll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans to do that." Gordon , 43, signed a lifetime contract in 1999 with team owner Rick Hendrick, who first brought him into stock-car racing's big leagues at the end of the 1992 season. He scored four victories in last season's resurgent campaign, bringing his career victory total to 92, third-most on NASCAR's all-time list. The rest of his stellar portfolio -- including three Daytona 500 wins and a record five Brickyard 400 victories -- boasts all the credentials for automatic first-ballot induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In a statement, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said, " 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." RELATED: How Gordon fared in 2014 with different paint schemes Gordon had joked ahead of the 2014 season that he would retire on the spot if he were to claim his fifth title, but his rejuvenating run deep into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs seemed to quell any retirement buzz. On Thursday, Gordon said that while his driving days may be coming to a close, he'll continue to stay active in the sport. "I don't foresee a day when I'll ever step away from racing," said Gordon , who is a part-owner of Hendrick's No. 48 team driven by teammate Jimmie Johnson . "I'm a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I'm passionate about the business and its future success. As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports , I'm a partner with Rick (Hendrick) and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come. "It means so much to have the chance to continue working with the owner who took a chance on me and the incredible team that's stood behind me every step of the way." Gordon first caught Hendrick's eye in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series in March 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway , with the veteran team owner marveling about the young driver's car control, even as he seemed on the brink of losing control. Eight months later, Gordon made his debut for Hendrick at the same Georgia track in what signaled a passing of the torch in the NASCAR driver ranks. King Richard Petty said farewell in his final NASCAR start, and Gordon -- who cut his teeth through the sprint-car circuit -- said hello to the world of stock-car racing, paving the way for what became a dynasty for the rest of the decade. "There's simply no way to quantify Jeff's impact," Hendrick said in the team release. "He's one of the biggest sports stars of a generation, and his contributions to the success and growth of NASCAR are unsurpassed. There's been no better ambassador for stock car racing and no greater representation of what a champion should be. I will never be able to properly express the respect and admiration I have for Jeff and how meaningful our relationship is to me. I'm so grateful for everything he's done for our company and my family, and I look forward to many more years together as friends and business partners." RELATED: Gordon strives for five in 2015 Gordon's decision creates a high-profile vacancy for 2016 on one of the sport's most powerful teams. The most likely candidate to replace the four-time champ is reigning XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott , the 19-year-old wunderkind who remains under contract to Hendrick as he campaigns full-time for JR Motorsports, co-owned by Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr . Earnhardt and Hendrick both indicated last year that Elliott was primed to make his first steps into the Sprint Cup Series in 2015, with the possibility of a full-time ride the following season. Though his days of full-time competition in the No. 24 Chevrolet are drawing to a close, Gordon said his desire for a fifth crown hasn't waned. "I'll explore opportunities for the next phase of my career, but my primary focus now and throughout 2015 will be my performance in the No. 24 Chevrolet," Gordon said. "I'm going to pour everything I have into this season and look forward to the challenge of competing for one last championship." International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy credited Gordon with raising the sport's popularity. In a statement she said, " Jeff Gordon 's significance to our sport cannot be overstated. He is an incredible competitor, and a favorite of millions of fans. His contributions throughout his career to NASCAR have elevated our sport's popularity worldwide. On behalf of the France family and ISC, I thank him for those contributions and wish him the best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career – and his life. We all look forward to watching him take the green flag for his last full-time season, beginning with the DAYTONA 500." That was far from the only statement of support and appreciation of Gordon . Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said the organization was proud of its association with Gordon . " Jeff Gordon is an incredible competitor, leader and ambassador for Chevrolet and motorsports. He has contributed so much – not only on the track with his 92 wins and four championships, but also away from the track as a businessman, with the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation, and more importantly, as a husband and father. He is a champion, and he has been a great friend. We are proud of our relationship with Jeff, and, just like all of his fans, we look forward to watching him compete for one more championship. We wish Jeff and his family -- Ingrid, Ella and Leo -- all of the best." Gordon began his motorsports career at the early age of 5 in quarter-midget cars, progressing up the ladder of open-wheel racing on dirt and asphalt. As a teenager, he moved with his family from his Vallejo, California, hometown to Indiana in an effort to further his sprint-car career. After notching championships in two U.S. Auto Club divisions, he got his first taste of the XFINITY Series with one race for car owner Hugh Connerty in 1990 before going full-time with team owner Bill Davis the following year. Gordon's solid first season was merely a prelude to his eye-popping 1992 campaign, where he steered Davis' No. 1 Baby Ruth-sponsored Ford to three wins and 11 pole positions. From there, his stock-car career gained momentum and cemented his future as a star when he joined Hendrick's operation. Gordon's rise also marked a career-changing move for a young mechanic named Ray Evernham, a former modified driver from New Jersey who was paired to be his crew chief on the start-up No. 24 team. Evernham helped transform the makeup of the modern pit crew, bringing in a group of professional athletes to service the car, forging what would become known as the "Rainbow Warriors" in a nod to the DuPont-sponsored team's colorful paint scheme. Gordon endured a rough-and-tumble rookie season, going winless with a high number of early exits -- 11 DNFs -- that left him 14th in the final 1993 standings. In 1994, he broke through for his first premier series triumph in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , sparking a tearful celebration in Victory Lane. His other win that season came in the inaugural stock-car race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . RELATED: See Gordon's memorable celebration at Charlotte following his first win From there, the floodgates opened for a dominant rest of the decade. From 1995 to 2001, Gordon landed all four of his championships -- including three in a four-year span from '95 to '98. Over the same seven-year stretch, Gordon amassed 56 victories -- including two Daytona 500 wins -- and established himself as one of the sport's elite drivers. Even with just five full seasons under his belt, he was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers before the 1998 season. Though Gordon picked up a new generation of fans enamored with his on-track success and matinee-idol good looks, some of the older guard of fans were slow to warm to the hotshot from the Midwest. Seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt widened the divide by playfully tweaking Gordon with the nickname of "Wonder Boy." Gordon tweaked right back, toasting his first championship with milk instead of champagne at Earnhardt's suggestion, creating a competitive relationship borne of mutual respect. While Gordon's racing prowess made him a fan favorite, his comfort level in front of the camera brought him and the sport in front of new audiences. His roles as an adept TV host and guest, plus guest appearances on television series and feature films helped make him a household name among non-racing fans. Gordon's second decade in the sport continued his roll with major victories, including the 2005 Daytona 500 , but his bids for a fifth championship came up just short. He finished second to Johnson in 2007 and wound up third on two other occasions. Last year, Gordon maintained that he was still seeking his first Sprint Cup championship, since his four titles came during the later years of the series' sponsorship by R.J. Reynolds. While his goals for 2015 are for nothing short of a championship, Gordon is also poised to break the sport's all-time longevity streak. He is scheduled to tie the all-time record of 788 consecutive starts set by Ricky Rudd next season at Chicagoland Speedway , site of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs opener on Sept. 20. Gordon would break the mark the following weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . RELATED: Gordon in fold for 2015, discusses past back woes Gordon's staying power has been largely free of medical issues, though the streak faced a threat last season. Gordon -- who underwent a procedure to help relieve chronic back pain in May 2009 -- battled through a flare-up ahead of the 2014 Coca-Cola 600 , completing all 600 miles in NASCAR's longest race a day after sitting out practice because of the ailment. The healing powers of four wins last season, though, had Gordon enthused about keeping his career going. "I just feel so competitive out there, and that makes me feel young again," Gordon said after posting his fifth Indy victory last July. "When the cars are that good, my back just doesn't seem to hurt as much ... Man, if 43 is like this, I can't wait for 50." Gordon's celebrations last year took on greater meaning as his 7-year-old daughter, Ella, and 4-year-old son, Leo, were regular visitors to Victory Lane with their father and proud mom Ingrid Vandebosch. While Gordon's title aspirations took deep root, he reflected on how important it was for his children and wife to experience a championship, a motivator that sharpened his career goals. As Gordon welcomed his growth as a family man as he headed toward the twilight of his racing career, he also transitioned into the role of philanthropist. Since establishing the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation in 1999, his reach has included the opening of a children's hospital in Concord, North Carolina in 2006, and his co-founding of the Athletes for Hope non-profit organization the following year. Gordon said last month at the end of NASCAR Champions' Week festivities that he never intended to retire after the 2014 season if he'd claimed championship No. 5. Now with one final full season, Gordon -- who offered grateful words to the NASCAR industry and fans Thursday morning -- has a chance to drive into the next chapter of his life with a championship ring for the thumb. "To everyone at NASCAR, my teammates, sponsors, competitors, friends, family, members of the media and especially our incredible fans, all I can say is thank you," Gordon said.