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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.
Get the latest news on the four-time champion Gordon announces that 2015 will be final full-time season Jeff Gordon announces on Jan. 22 that 2015 will be his final full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series. The four-time champion has driven his entire premier series career with Hendrick Motorsports . " Read more See the top 24 moments in Gordon's career With one more full-time season, Jeff Gordon has a chance to add to his impressive racing resume. We examine the top 24 moments in the career of the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet to this point. " View Gordon's top moments Bruce: If this is it, Gordon is going out on top With 92 wins, four championships and plenty of other accomplishments in NASCAR, Jeff Gordon is a shoo-in to be a first ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer, writes Kenny Bruce. " Read more Drivers react to Gordon's announcement From his Hendrick teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jimmie Johnson to Clint Bowyer to many more, drivers and others share reactions to Jeff Gordon 's news. " Read more " Hamlin shows off Gordon Fan Club membership card Fans share favorite memories NASCAR fans from all over are sharing their favorite Jeff Gordon memories with the hashtag #JGFinalLap. " Read more Statement from Brian France NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France calls Jeff Gordon someone who "transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race." " Read the full statement Striving for five Fresh off a four-win season that saw him nearly make the Championship 4, Jeff Gordon is geared up to go after his fifth title. " Read Gordon's season preview " Recap his 2014 season Loyal to Hendrick Jeff Gordon had opportunities to jump ship from Hendrick Motorsports , including one with Formula One, but Kenny Bruce finds out why Gordon stayed true to HMS through his entire career. " Read more A Man in Full When Jeff Gordon had to tell daughter Ella Sofia about his decision, he wasn't expecting the look on her face. Read what happened next as Gordon reacted as a father would. " Read more Best paint schemes Take a trip down Memory Lane and see some of the best paint schemes in Jeff Gordon 's illustrious career. Find out if your favorite is among our picks for the best. " Read more " See Gordon's 3M paint scheme for 2015 Inside the big reveal Jeff Gordon discusses what it was like to tell his co-workers at Hendrick Motorsports about his decision to make 2015 his final full-time season, and hints at his future plans. " Read more Gordon to join FOX Sports as NASCAR analyst After the dust from his final season announcement settled, Gordon also let the public know that we'll be seeing his face, along with Brad Keselowski 's and Kevin Harvick 's in the FOX Sports broadcast booth in 2015. " Read more Bowyer on Gordon: 'It's kind of like a divorce' Clint Bowyer offers his take on Jeff Gordon 's final full-time season and how their relationship has changed since their run-in at Phoenix in 2012. " Read more Gordon news catches Stewart off-guard Three-time champion Tony Stewart said he was sad by the news that Jeff Gordon 's final season competing for a championship will be 2015. His long-time rival share his thoughts on the news. " Read more Letarte, Burton weigh in on Gordon NBC Sports' NASCAR analysts Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte weigh-in on the Jeff Gordon news. Letarte was Gordon's crew chief for several seasons at hendrick Motorsports. " See what they said Elliott to drive No. 24 car in 2016 Defending XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott will be stepping up to the Sprint Cup Series on a full-time basis in 2016, driving the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , made famous by Jeff Gordon . " Read more " Learn how the torch was passed
Clint Bowyer shares his view on Jeff Gordon's final full-time season
NASCAR XFINITY Series champ will run five Sprint Cup races in 2015 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Elliott's 2015 preview " Gordon says final full-time season to be in 2015 CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott will join the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2016 after running a partial schedule this season. Elliott, 19, will take over the Rick Hendrick-owned No. 24 Chevrolet made famous by four-time champion Jeff Gordon , who announced last week that this will be his last full-time season in NASCAR's top division. The team announced a five-race schedule for Elliott's first taste of NASCAR's big leagues. The second-generation driver is slated to make his Sprint Cup debut March 29 at Martinsville Speedway , then compete April 25 at Richmond International Raceway , May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , and Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway . Kenny Francis, who moved to the role of vehicle technical director for Hendrick in the offseason, will serve as crew chief for Elliott's five-race slate this season. In 2016, Elliott will work with longtime Hendrick crew chief Alan Gustafson, a 19-time winner in NASCAR's premier series who has been atop the pit box for Gordon for the last four seasons. For 2015, Elliott's Sprint Cup entries will carry No. 25, with NAPA -- his XFINITY Series sponsor -- as the primary backer. The team said sponsorship for 2016 would be announced at a later date. @ChaseElliott gets the call! He’ll be in 5 @NASCAR Sprint Cup races in 2015. We couldn't be prouder! pic.twitter.com/GYZOYhuu4c — NAPA AUTO PARTS (@NAPAKnowHow) January 29, 2015 "Chase brings the kind of intangibles that make him the total package as a driver," said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick in a team release. "Not only is he a special talent inside the race car, but there's a natural combination of competitiveness, work ethic and smarts that you rarely see. Chase's personality and demeanor make him popular with fans, teammates and sponsors. He's a great fit for our organization on many levels, and we feel he and Alan will be a successful combination. There's a lot to be excited about." RELATED: See how the No. 24 torch was passed When Gordon announced last Thursday that his days as a full-time driver were coming to an end, speculation on a replacement immediately centered on Elliott, who is entering his second season with JR Motorsports, a team co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr . with Hendrick affiliations. Elliott took to social media to express his thanks, while also adding that Jeff Gordon can never be replaced. pic.twitter.com/MGClDjwNCQ — Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) January 29, 2015 The 2014 season marked Elliott's first full season in NASCAR national series competition and he came out of the gate fast in what is now known as the XFINITY Series, scoring his first win in April at Texas Motor Speedway iand then following that up with a win the next week at Darlington Raceway . For the season, Elliott had three wins, 16 top-fives, 26 top-10s and two poles while becoming the youngest champion in any NASCAR national touring series. He also was the first driver in NASCAR history to win a championship and Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. MORE: Elliott's championship timeline " Junior on Elliott's 2014 success Both Hendrick -- who signed Elliott to his developmental program in 2011 -- and Earnhardt said last season that the timing seemed right for Elliott to advance to the top rung in the NASCAR development ladder with a limited Sprint Cup campaign in 2015 before making the full-time jump. The arrangement announced Thursday allows Elliott to make that move while benefiting from another year of seasoning in the XFINITY Series for JRM. News of Elliott's plans come one day before the induction of his father, Bill Elliott, into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The elder Elliott, the 1988 champion and a 44-time winner in NASCAR's premier series, offered support for his son's racing efforts through the Late Model ranks, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and eventually the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Chase won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in just his sixth series start in 2013 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . All the while, the younger Elliott's quick ascent to stock-car fame rejuvenated their small hometown community of Dawsonville, Georgia, which signaled each accomplishment with a shrill blare from siren mounted atop the Dawsonville Pool Room, an area institution and haven of Elliott racing memorabilia. "So many people have been behind me, and the first thing I want to do is thank them," Chase Elliott said in a release provided by the team. "My parents especially have believed in me every step of the way, and I know this wouldn't be possible without all the sacrifices they've made to focus on my racing career. This is such a big week for our family." "I'm also extremely grateful to Mr. Hendrick and my teammates at both Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports for believing in me. NAPA has been a huge supporter, and I'm honored to represent them on and off the track. Of course the fans have been amazing to me, and I'm so appreciative of that. I know how rare this opportunity is and will work as hard as I can to make everyone proud." This story will be updated. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
2012 champion believes 'a new era' has come with current Chase format Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It's hard to determine if Brad Keselowski relishes his "anti-establishment" image in the world of NASCAR, but one thing is clear – the former Sprint Cup Series champion remains unapologetic for the way he races and the fallout that’s been known to follow. "You know you're doing something … right in this sport when you're racing the establishment and you make them upset," Keselowski, 30, said Wednesday during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "When you make them upset under the terms that I did – I made guys mad racing for the win, it wasn't racing for 20th. "If you get in a wreck and a fight racing for 20th, that doesn't make SportsCenter. You get in a wreck and a fight with a previous champion racing for a championship, going for a win then you're probably doing the right things." The Team Penske driver won a career-best six races last season and he and teammate Joey Logano were consistently fast throughout the course of the 36-race season. But it was incidents during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth at Charlotte, as well as a post-race brawl at Texas with four-time champion Jeff Gordon , that thrust Keselowski, and the sport, into the glare of the national spotlight. Kenseth and Gordon both questioned not only Keselowski's actions on the track, but his unrepentant attitude after such incidents. Hamlin simply described he 2012 champ as "out of control." Keselowski said such episodes either during the race or afterward didn't affect him personally. Taking a big picture view, such altercations showed that "there's a new era coming in this sport with this Chase," he said. "Honestly, it's already arrived. You're going to have to be very aggressive to win championships under this format. That was probably the lesson I learned – more so about the sport than anything else." That others were angry, he said, wasn't surprising, noting "you should be upset when you don't win." The Chase format – which consists of four rounds with wins in any round by a qualified driver guaranteeing advancement into the next round – increased the on-track intensity and aggressive nature of the competition 10-fold. Evidence was impossible to miss. "We certainly saw that with some moves I made, and I wasn't the only driver," he said. "We saw that out of Kevin (Harvick) at the end; and Ryan Newman at the end. And I'm sure there was more than that. I don't view that as a bad thing. I think that's great for the sport. I think our fans will respond to that in the long term; that's what we should be aiming for is what makes our fans happy." Racing defensively and protecting one's position went out the window with the new format, he said, noting that, "when that … mentality disappears from how the races play out, you see more aggressiveness. "I think you see more heated moments. You see a lot of different things that I think are, in general, good for the sport." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule