There were temptations to leave, but Jeff Gordon always knew he'd stay
CALAMA, Chile -- Robby Gordon will be leaving Chile and the Dakar Rally much earlier than expected. Trying to recover from mechanical issues after Stage 2, Gordon's Hummer was hit with more problems during Wednesday's Stage 4 and he was disqualified, according to speedenergy.com. Speed Energy was Gordon's sponsor for the Dakar Rally. Gordon began the day 17th but had right-front wheel bearing issues before the start of the timed special, costing him about five hours. He completed the stage, but because he was late to the special, he was disqualified from the rally. Gordon was one of six cars to withdraw Wednesday. "Disappointed doesn't even begin to describe the way I'm feeling right now, not only for me but for everyone involved," Gordon said. "Knowing all the hard work and dedication that was put into this program is what makes our untimely exit from the Dakar Rally a hard pill to swallow. "While it may not appear like it due to our performance thus far, countless hours went into this effort. To have a wheel bearing fail is just sickening ... a huge, huge disappointment. We run this same wheel bearing on the trophy truck and have put thousands of kilometers on HUMMERs, and we have never had this part fail." STAGE 3 SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, Argentina -- Attempting to overcome a poor finish in Stage 2 due to mechanical issues, the No. 303 HUMMER was back on unfamiliar terrain. In the 2010 edition of the Dakar Rally, Stage 3 took the competitors from La Rioja to Fiambala, however, this year the route has moved further east as they make their way to Chile. Beginning the day in San Miguel de Tucuman, this special stage was been split into two parts, totaling 165 miles. Starting the day in 21st position overall, Robby Gordon and navigator, Kellon Walch finished the stage in 15th, putting the team 17th overall, 1 hour 32 minutes behind leader Carlos Sainz. Even as Gordon improved his position in the rally, he was not pleased with the performance of the HUMMER. "We keep putting ourselves behind the eight ball. We passed a bunch of cars early in the special, but then realized we had lost a transmission pump", Gordon said. "[Tuesday's] special would have been good for the HUMMER had we not had a mechanical issue. The route had some very technical, rough stuff in the beginning, and it would have been good for us." STAGE 2 SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN, Argentina -- Robby Gordon struggled in the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Monday, finishing 46th after an accident and dropping to 21st overall in the standings. Carlos Sainz, the defending champion, won his second stage in as many days in his Volkswagen. His lead is 3:05 ahead of Stephane Peterhansel's BMW and 1:06:55 in front of Gordon in his Hummer. Gordon's accident occurred after a solid start and cost him an hour's worth of repairs. "We were actually pretty good through the first few check points," Gordon said. "One corner snuck up on me; I didn't see it and just drove off the road, hitting a large rock. This is very unfortunate for our team. Now that we are an hour behind heading into Chile versus only a few minutes, we definitely got our work cut out for us. I think we will be OK though; there is still plenty of racing left. "The Hummer sustained some damage on today's stage as when we smashed the front of the race vehicle into the rock, and the transmission doesn't have reverse because it broke when I tried to reverse out of my mistake. I would say that we were broke down for maybe an hour today...a very costly hour." Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires. The race heads north on Tuesday to San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina and crosses into Chile on Wednesday, heading for the Atacama desert. STAGE 1 CORDOBA, Argentina -- Robby Gordon and Team Hummer completed the first stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday in eighth place, covering the 138-mile course in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds. Gordon and navigator Kellon Walch trail defending champion Carlos Sainz by 11:04. Sainz's Volkswagen was 1:31 ahead of second-place Stephane Peterhansel in a BMW and 2:16 in front of Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al Attiyah. American driver Mark Miller was fourth, 4:17 behind in another Volkswagen. Gordon started fourth but dropped to ninth by the first marker as heavy rain created a slippery disadvantage as participants suffered from skidding and sliding. "We knew that the Hummer team would not be as strong as we would like in the Argentina portion of this race, but we struggled a little bit more [Sunday] than I would have liked due to the weather conditions and technical rally-style section," said Gordon , who offered a reason for the discrepancy in time in correlation to the leaders. "Sainz and Peterhansel ... started the race before the weather began and were virtually unaffected by it. That's why you see the gap in time from the rest of the competitors. "We started out the special good, but we had a couple of challenges along the way. Kellon and I had to change helmets during the middle of the stage because his microphone quit working. I ran off the road at one point. We also ran out of windshield wiper fluid due to the mud. These mistakes probably cost us about 1 minute of total speed. I expected to give up 5 minutes in [Sunday's] stage, not 11 minutes, which disappoints me. "It is still early in the race, but we have some ground to make up [Monday]. Some of the guys are already starting to have issues this early. Hopefully, we will recover quickly from [Sunday's] issues before we enter Chile because it is our best opportunity to make up time. By this point, I want to be less than 10 minutes behind." Sunday's first stage from Victoria to Corboda in northern Argentina followed the ceremonial ride from Buenos Aires to Victoria a day earler. Officials said 407 contestants started the race Sunday, down from the 430 who were enrolled Saturday. Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires. Monday's second stage from Cordoba to San Miguel de Tucuman is a 201-mile race through the mountains. "[Monday's] stage is supposed to go through the mountains, which are not good for us for two reasons. First, the Hummers are not turbo-charged, then the course is a little narrow. They did say that we should encounter some bumps, which could be good for us," Gordon said. Gordon's second team, with Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar and navigator Steve La Roza, is in 28th place after the opening stage, 34:25 off the pace. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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 awhile. "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
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Gordon wears fatherhood, philanthropy well as driving days wind down RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon announcement It's easy to think of Jeff Gordon as stock-car racing superstar, the driver who broke into the sport with a certain Madison Avenue polish in the 1990s. Back then, the knock against him was that he hadn't paid his dues. After 23 amazing seasons, no one will be able to make that claim when the curtain falls on Gordon's career. But portraying Gordon solely in terms of his driving ability as the face of NASCAR fans' adulation and as a four-time champion at the sport's highest level sells the man short. Nowhere is that point more evident than when he taught 7-year-old daughter Ella Sofia one of life's lessons in a touching Thursday morning heart-to-heart, just hours before he announced the 2015 season would be his last full ride in NASCAR. "Today is an emotional day," Gordon said Thursday afternoon with a chuckle that emphasized the understatement. "I had to tell my daughter this morning when I was explaining to her that I was going to be telling the team and people this and talking about it, and she saw me get very emotional when I was telling her. And I saw a look that I'd never seen in her eye before where she had never seen me like that, and I had to explain to her. Because most kids see when tears are flowing, it's sadness, and it wasn't for me. It was pride." Gordon was in a reflective mood on what turned out to be a whirlwind offseason day, one that gave the sports world a brief respite from the finer points of football inflation. He talked about how his illustrious NASCAR career elevated him from a short-track upstart to a household name. But there are many more opportunities that racing has afforded him, and their reach extends beyond the racetrack. On Thursday, Gordon recalled a visit he made during the 1990s to Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and how lost he felt upon meeting a family whose child was undergoing treatment for cancer. From that experience early on in his career, Gordon found the inspiration and purpose for helping the cause, and he was determined that his higher calling would entail more than just breezing in for autographs and photo ops. Some 15 years after its birth, the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation has raised more than $14 million for pediatric care organizations, has helped to fund cancer research and has opened children's health centers both locally (Concord, North Carolina) and abroad (Rwanda, Africa). His car owner, Rick Hendrick, has also helped support those good works; he sits on the governing board of directors for Gordon's foundation. "It's given me something also to be very proud of beyond just driving a race car," Gordon said, "but also I know there is so much more that needs to be done for pediatric cancer that I want to be a part of in the future." While Gordon said he welcomed how his impending career change would free up more time for his philanthropic pursuits, he told the Associated Press in a Thursday interview that he also looked forward to spending more time with his family -- wife Ingrid Vandebosch, daughter Ella Sofia and his 4-year-old son, Leo. The family of four was a frequent visitor to Victory Lane in 2014 as the patriarch enjoyed one of his most rejuvenating seasons to date. And just last spring, his daughter suited up for a test run in a Quarter Midget racer, sparking speculation that the advent of the next generation of drivers named Gordon wasn't far away. Regardless of what direction his post-driving career takes, Gordon will remain a global star. Thursday morning's announcement triggered a flood of memories and heartfelt salutes from his fellow competitors, others within the motorsports industry and his devoted abundance of fans about his place as one of the most decorated drivers in the history of the sport. After the staggering news unfolded, many came forward to call him a champion, an ambassador, an icon. Earlier Thursday morning, Gordon was called something far more important: Dad. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Jeff Gordon answers questions following his announcement that 2015 will be his final full-time racing season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Team owner, Rick Hendrick, also takes questions.