The classic NASCAR film "Days of Thunder" was loosely based on the career of 13-time premier series victor Tim Richmond, who had earned the nickname "Hollywood." Given his comfort in the spotlight over the course of the past two decades, perhaps the nickname would also suit Jeff Gordon , who retired from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition after falling just short in his bid for a historic fifth title on Sunday. Born a California boy, it was clear from the start of his career that Gordon was cut from a different cloth than the good ol' boys who had ruled NASCAR throughout its storied history. He was polished. He was refined. He was -- eventually, once mustache met razor -- well-groomed. And people took notice. Before long there were endorsements, seemingly more Gordon memorabilia lining the shelves than shelves themselves and, oh yeah, four titles in his first nine seasons, solidifying a Hall of Fame resume before he even hit age 30. And Gordon's influence on the actual racing part of the sport will be everlasting. Take a look at the final Sprint Cup standings . There are only two drivers in the top 25 who originally hail from North Carolina ( Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Austin Dillon ), NASCAR's original talent pool hot bed. Many factors led to this, but Gordon's All-American appeal, charm and charisma helped pave the way -- even while playing the foil to Dale Earnhardt -- opening up NASCAR to a mainstream audience, flooding stands and couches in front of non-flat-screened TV sets with an audience that stretched from coast to coast, border to border. An audience that tuned in to see Gordon become the first -- and to date, only -- race car driver host one of America's most notable television programs, NBC's "Saturday Night Live." Jeff Gordon 's monologue from a 2003 episode of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." "I asked (Gordon) recently, a while back, about what made you go on 'Saturday Night Live,' what made you want to do that," NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Number 1, he said, 'Well, they asked me.' And I said, 'Well, OK.' But he said, 'Look, I felt comfortable doing a lot of things that were not mainstream for a NASCAR driver.' "And he was smart about it. He knew that that could separate him from other drivers and he was good at it." Gordon's SNL appearance on Jan. 11, 2003, was a tipping point of bringing NASCAR to the masses, an unquestionable testament to the Hendrick Motorsports driver's popularity and wide-ranging allure. Gordon got to "beat up" a fake Gary Busey while hosting "SNL." It's the crowning achievement in Gordon's on-screen roles, a list that includes 27 appearances on "Live!" (with Regis/Kathie Lee/Kelly/Michael), including 11 guest hosting gigs. He's also appeared in "Spin City", "Arli$$", "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", "The Drew Carey Show", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", "Taxi", "Herbie Fully Loaded", "Sesame Street", "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", "Top Gear", "The Simpsons", "Jeopardy" and even "Cars 2" -- as the appropriately named character "Jeff Gorvette." That curriculum vitae alone -- which is pared down; check out his entire IMDb page -- shows Gordon's star power across generations of fans and television watchers. Gordon also got to play a fighter pilot. Ultimately, with Gordon walking away on such a high note from the sport he's gotten so much out of, NASCAR has reaped the benefits of his contributions. Millions of NASCAR fans can thank Jeff Gordon for opening their eyes to the sport. "He's one of those guys, I always look back at drivers that take out a lot less than they put in," France said. "He's one of those guys that has put in a lot to grow the sport. And other drivers should think about that a little bit. Because he's really a model in that respect. "I have a lot of respect for Jeff Gordon ."
RELATED: Full coverage of Gordon's final start HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, officials and dignitaries toasted retiring four-time champion Jeff Gordon with a standing ovation in the drivers' and crew chiefs' meeting before Sunday's season finale. But they also received a stern warning from NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton to let 2015's last race play out naturally. Gordon, just hours before making his 797th start in NASCAR's premier series, was singled out by Helton and NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France during his final drivers' meeting as a full-time competitor at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Attendees were also treated to a commemorative video that captured moments from his nearly lifelong career in motorsports. "Jeff, congratulations on an outstanding career," Helton said after the video presentation. "Thank you for all you've done for NASCAR, and will do, but certainly what all you've done throughout that career. You're a true champion and cross over in a lot of venues as a top-shelf guy, so thank you." Several drivers paid tribute by wearing Jeff Gordon hats to the meeting, including Kyle Larson , Danica Patrick and all of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . , Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne . RELATED: Danica pays tribute to Gordon " Larson sports retro Gordon hat Gordon will compete for a Sprint Cup championship in Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), battling Kyle Busch , defending champ Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr . as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs draw to a close. Helton urged all participants to let the title contest unfold without any underhanded tactics over the course of the 400 miles. "So this is our last race and this'll be the last time you hear this from anybody at the podium up here, but drivers and crew chiefs, crewmembers, spotters, everybody let the race play out in its natural course," Helton said. "No one needs to interfere with the natural unfolding of this event. This is our last opportunity, it's a great opportunity for four drivers. There's 39 others that are participating in this race, but crew chiefs -- and pass this on to your spotters -- and drivers, be sure that this day concludes on a high note with no interference of a naturally progressed race." Helton also gave priority recognition to country music entertainer Tim McGraw, excusing him early so that he could perform a pre-race concert on the 1.5-mile track's frontstretch.
RELATED: Starting lineup " Live weather updates " See the 43-car field And then there were four. Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr . will be vying for the Sprint Cup Series title in a few hours at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBC). But there's plenty happening in the garage before then -- after all, it is championship weekend. NASCAR.com will be keeping a live blog covering all the Homestead action. So, check back right here for periodic updates throughout the day. 4:45 p.m. ET: Thanks for tuning into NASCAR.com's live blog from Homestead. Turn on NBC for the start of the season finale Ford EcoBoost 400 . 4:27 p.m. ET: The command has been given. Getting ready! Here we go. #TheChase https://t.co/CRZiAsagNx — #TheChase (@NASCAR) November 22, 2015 4:19 p.m. ET: Counting down the minutes until race time. Getting closer to the championship race. #Nascar pic.twitter.com/kPO2pCDbnU — Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) November 22, 2015 4:04 p.m. ET: Everyone wants to get a glismpe of Jeff Gordon . . @JeffGordonWeb has a posse. #SquadGoals pic.twitter.com/u02jsVPVo0 — #TheChase (@NASCAR) November 22, 2015 3:55 p.m. ET: One of these four drivers will be hoisting the 2015 Sprint Cup Series trophy above their heads. The #Championship4 pic.twitter.com/7TWik5wJOl — Kelly Crandall (@KellyCrandall) November 22, 2015 3:51 p.m. ET: One last time at driver intros for Jeff Gordon . Reporting for the final time! #24ever https://t.co/00i4FxHxsB — #TheChase (@NASCAR) November 22, 2015 3:30 p.m. ET: Driver introductions are now underway on NBC. 3:15 p.m. ET: Getting closer! Driver Intros scheduled for 3:30 now :) #NASCAR — Holly Cain (@_HollyCain) November 22, 2015 3:02 p.m. ET: Just awesome. A special moment between racing legends, @JeffGordonWeb & @MarioAndretti . #24Ever pic.twitter.com/WvXfrq0AWo — NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) November 22, 2015 2:43 p.m. ET: Stay with us, folks -- the radar for the rest of the day looks promising! Per @NASCAR , start of race on hold due to rain. — tom jensen (@tomjensen100) November 22, 2015 2:25 p.m. ET: The real MVPs of NASCAR are gearing up. Air Titans are being staged at the entrance of Turn 3. #NASCAR — Chris Knight (@Knighter01) November 22, 2015 2:15 p.m. ET: Driver introductions -- which were set to begin at 2:20 p.m. ET -- are on hold due to rain. 2:10 p.m. ET : Rain, rain stay away. Shower was over after 5 minutes. Steady wind keeping clouds moving quickly over the track. #nascar — Nate Ryan (@nateryan) November 22, 2015 2:03 p.m. ET: Coincidence or premonition? Look close and you'll see it. A rainbow near @HomesteadMiami :) #24ever // @NASCARONFOX pic.twitter.com/v4gM93OQAj — Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) November 22, 2015 2 p.m. ET: That's a sharp-looking group. And they've all assembled -- the #Championship4 pic.twitter.com/8MKrOh0WjJ — Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverSBN) November 22, 2015 1:28 p.m. ET: Man, Jeff Gordon has some cool friends. So proud to call you a friend @JeffGordonWeb . You are a legend and an inspiration. Go real fast today buddy. #24ever — Brad Paisley (@BradPaisley) November 22, 2015 1:05 p.m. ET: Rollin' on out. Takin' her to the grid. #Championship4 pic.twitter.com/9FIMeLdSl7 — #TheChase (@NASCAR) November 22, 2015 12:46 p.m. ET: Danica Patrick pays a classy tribute to Jeff Gordon . #24ever pic.twitter.com/L2Bi8bsA0n — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) November 22, 2015 12:33 p.m. ET: One last driver's meeting for the 2015 season, set to begin at 1 p.m. ET. Early scene at @HomesteadMiami drivers' meeting with "Round and Round" by Ratt as the soundtrack. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/Loa1Px3Vq9 — Zack Albert (@zack_albert) November 22, 2015 12:27 p.m. ET: Rodney Childers makes sure the No. 4 car is in tip-top shape for today. #NASCAR ... @RodneyChilders4 oversees final work on Kevin Harvick 's car. @NASCARonNBC pic.twitter.com/hQEPjRl9tz — Dustin Long (@dustinlong) November 22, 2015 11:51 a.m. ET: Guess who's back at the track? from the @Minions ! #Minions pic.twitter.com/rYN7dkhvt4 — Homestead-Miami (@HomesteadMiami) November 22, 2015 11:48 a.m. ET: #24ever. "How could I not be enjoying this? I'm having the time of my life. It's unbelievable." - @JeffGordonWeb on @FS1 's #NASCAR #RaceDay . — Jay W. Pennell (@jaywpennell) November 22, 2015 11:45 a.m. ET: Full house behind Jeff Gordon for his FS1 Race Day cameo this morning. . @JeffGordonWeb has arrived @FS1 and these fans are very happy about that! #24ever pic.twitter.com/l1dJd7pPxc — Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) November 22, 2015 10:56 a.m. ET: Um, Ricky, Texas was two weeks ago. The footwear of choice in Miami is flip-flops. Breaking out some new @tonylama today. pic.twitter.com/j3UXRjNpTj — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) November 22, 2015 10:12 a.m. ET: We're liking the looks of these sunny skies! Blue sky, red carpet. @HomesteadMiami pic.twitter.com/SAZTaM0Lig — Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) November 22, 2015 10:09 a.m. ET: The No. 48 team got a special visit from country superstar Tim McGraw this morning. . @thetimmcgraw stopping by the 48 hauler. pic.twitter.com/BmlCJDMKtX — Team Lowe's Racing (@LowesRacing) November 22, 2015 9:49 a.m. ET: Drivers like Dale Jr., media and even former President Clinton took to Twitter to wish Jeff Gordon well-wishes and share their favorite No. 24 memories. Check out all the messages here . It's been great racing with you, and learning from you. Great competitor and exceptional ambassador for @NASCAR . pic.twitter.com/KMmdAiVIWn — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 22, 2015 9:22 a.m. ET: A little elbow grease to accompany morning coffee for the four championship contenders' teams. Rise and grind. #TheChase https://t.co/lFAWeQ8DYl — #TheChase (@NASCAR) November 22, 2015
Tim McGraw announces that he will be performing at Homestead-Miami Speedway to kick off the Championship 4 finale for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 20, 2015) -- NASCAR® fans have more ways than ever to watch as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ champion is crowned in this year’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway SM. Innovative new broadcast and digital outlets from NASCAR and NBC allow viewers to follow both the full driver field and the CHAMPIONSHIP 4® in the ultimate multi-screen experience during the Ford EcoBoost 400 . Live coverage begins on Sunday with Countdown to Green at 1:30 p.m. ET followed by the Ford EcoBoost 400 at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC. Viewers can also tune-in for NBCSN Hot Pass, a simultaneous live feed with up to three different camera angles trained on each of the remaining four drivers. Closely watch every pass, pit stop and burn out from defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex, Jr. as they vie for the trophy in Miami. Coverage will also be available online via NBC Sports Live Extra. Fans have a myriad of digital options in addition to the live broadcast, including the NASCAR Mobile™ app and RaceBuddy™, which will feature in-car cameras from each of the CHAMPIONSHIP 4 drivers. RaceBuddy offers 10 live HD race views, with backstretch and pit road cameras, while NASCAR Mobile features six in-car video feeds, a live leaderboard, in-car audio and a track position dashboard to easily follow favorite drivers during the championship race. "Presenting new and engaging race content in a live format allows us to deliver greater value to our fans by amplifying their opportunities to consume NASCAR events," said Tim Clark, managing director, digital platforms, NASCAR Digital Media. "With the multitude of options from both NASCAR and NBC, fans can watch from numerous viewpoints at the same time, giving them a front-row seat to what will certainly be an action-packed championship race." Viewers can follow @NASCAR and #TheChase or #Championship4 for real-time updates via social media on the most critical moments throughout the Ford EcoBoost 400 . Jeff Gordon fans can also supplement the race broadcast by following along with the four-time champion’s final ride via a live stream of his in-car camera this Sunday on the NASCAR YouTube page. Tune-in to NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 22, check out NBC Sports Live Extra, or listen to live coverage on Motor Racing Network (MRN) or SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, to find out who the next champion will be in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Going out on top is something every athlete dreams of when their career is winding down. That metaphorical ride into the sunset feels a whole lot sweeter with a title in hand. Because an athlete's performance tends to diminish in the latter years, the feat is much easier said than done. But heading into Sunday's Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), the Ford EcoBoost 400 , Jeff Gordon is in position to walk away on top -- with his fifth Sprint Cup Series championship. In January, the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet announced that 2015 would be his final full-time season. Chase Elliott will pilot the car starting when the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series begins. Gordon's swan-song season hasn't been as strong as his four-win campaign in 2014, but he is still walking away while performing at a high level. That was evident a few weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway , where the 44-year-old scored his 93rd career premier series victory. In addition to the pure joy Gordon displayed upon winning the race, the victory locked him into being one of the four drivers to battle for a championship. If Gordon is the best finisher among the four title-eligible drivers at the 1.5-mile track, then he goes out in style and truly walks away on top. Gordon would not be alone in that club among all athletes. There have been several stars to walk away while still performing at a high level, but its even rarer to see an athlete walk away on the top of mountain with a championship. • Quarterback John Elway spent his entire 16-year career with the Denver Broncos, despite being drafted by the then-Baltimore Colts, who would later deal Elway to Denver. Up until his final two NFL seasons, Elway had not won a Super Bowl, but he closed his career with back-to-back Super Bowl titles before calling it a career. He even was named the Super Bowl MVP in his final game, Super Bowl XXXIII. Elway's dream ending is the type of finish Gordon is going for. • You may know Michael Strahan better these days as one half of LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, but before that he was busy chasing down quarterbacks like nobody else. In his career, he recorded 141.5 sacks, including setting the single-season mark of 22.5 in 2001. Strahan was the defensive leader of the New York Giants for several years and was a key part of the team that knocked off the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He retired the following summer. • David Robinson was one of the NBA's best centers for a number of years. Injuries and the presence of Tim Duncan on the San Antonio Spurs saw Robinson's offensive role decrease toward the end of his career, but "The Admiral" was still a force on the defensive end. In the final game of his career, Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals, Robinson turned in a vintage performance with 13 points and 17 rebounds as the Spurs topped the New Jersey Nets to win the championship. The title was Robinson's second of his career and sent him out of the NBA on top. Gordon has a chance to ride into the sunset with a championship. He already has four titles (1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001) but is hungry for a fifth. Will he score a championship for the ages or will Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr . deny him in his bid for another title? Tune in Sunday to find out.
RELATED: Cast your vote today Less than one week remains before voting ends in the annual NMPA Most Popular Driver award, which means it's crucial for NASCAR fans to vote. And they've answered the call recently. Last week saw a 14.9 percent increase in total number of votes cast from the previous week. That number speaks to how deep the passion runs for NASCAR fans -- and also how passionate fans remain digitally savvy. Voting has never been easier, either at www.mostpopulardriver.com or the NASCAR Mobile App. Are you doing your part for your favorite driver? Remember, the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver award is the only major NASCAR award determined solely by fan vote. Voting ends Nov. 22 at 11:59 p.m. ET, so make sure your voice is heard. Voting is limited to one vote per person per email address per day. The winner of this year's award will be announced during the NBCSN broadcast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards on Dec. 4 in Las Vegas. A $10,000 donation will be made to the winning driver's charity of choice. And just in case you need any extra motivation … Sprint has revealed the top 10 vote-getters thus far. Where is your favorite driver? The list below is in alphabetical order. Kyle Busch Dale Earnhardt Jr . Carl Edwards Jeff Gordon Kevin Harvick Jimmie Johnson Kasey Kahne Matt Kenseth Danica Patrick Tony Stewart Previous winners of the NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award: Year – Recipient 2014 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2013 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2012 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2011 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2010 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2009 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2008 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2007 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2006 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2005 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2003 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 2002 – Bill Elliott 2001 – Dale Earnhardt 2000 – Bill Elliott 1999 – Bill Elliott 1998 – Bill Elliott 1997 – Bill Elliott 1996 – Bill Elliott 1995 – Bill Elliott 1994 – Bill Elliott 1993 – Bill Elliott 1992 – Bill Elliott 1991 – Bill Elliott 1990 – Darrell Waltrip 1989 – Darrell Waltrip 1988 – Bill Elliott 1987 – Bill Elliott 1986 – Bill Elliott 1985 – Bill Elliott 1984 – Bill Elliott 1983 – Bobby Allison 1982 – Bobby Allison 1981 – Bobby Allison 1980 – David Pearson 1979 – David Pearson 1978 – Richard Petty 1977 – Richard Petty 1976 – Richard Petty 1975 – Richard Petty 1974 – Richard Petty 1973 – Bobby Allison 1972 – Bobby Allison 1971 – Bobby Allison 1970 – Richard Petty 1969 – Bobby Isaac 1968 – Richard Petty 1967 – Cale Yarborough 1966 – Darel Dieringer 1965 – Fred Lorenzen 1964 – Richard Petty 1963 – Fred Lorenzen 1962 – Richard Petty 1961 – Joe Weatherly 1960 – Rex White 1959 – Jack Smith 1958 – Glen Wood 1957 – Fireball Roberts 1956 – Curtis Turner 1955 – Tim Flock 1954 – Lee Petty 1953 – Lee Petty
Frances Flock shares the honors of inducting Tim Flock into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Frances Flock shares the whole story of Jocko Flocko and expresses her joy for seeing Tim inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Take a look back at Kevin Harvick’s ‘walk-off’ win and Ryan Newman’s last-lap pass to make the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.