After Gordon’s long drought, a future awash with possibilities
Jeff Gordon (center), signs autographs in the garage area during practice for the Auto Club 400 on Sunday. (NASCAR photo)
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
Jeff Gordon is getting a different line of questioning in his media appearances these days. For a time, he had people asking him when he was going to win again. Then after he broke a 66-race losing skid with a win at Phoenix International Raceway in the second race of 2011, the questions shifted to how many races he’ll win before he retires.
How that turns out will have an impact at the top of NASCAR’s career-win list.
Richard Petty leads with 200. David Pearson is second at 105. Most historians say Bobby Allison is third with 85, but the official record shows he’s tied for third with Darrell Waltrip, who has 84. Then come Cale Yarborough and Gordon with 83 apiece. Since Gordon is the only one of the group still racing, and still racing competitively at the relatively young age of 39, it’s pretty certain he’ll keep climbing the chart.
‘This is what I love,” Gordon said, when asked the career-win question. “You go for 66 races and don’t win a race and you’re like, ‘Are you ever going to get to 83?’
“Now I win one race and everybody’s, ‘Oh, you can get to 105 now.’
“That’s a big number. I’ve always said anything’s possible. And when things are clicking and the chemistry’s there with the team, you can click off a lot of wins. I certainly feel like I have it in me to be able to go out and put multiple wins together this year.”
But he stopped short of saying whether he can wind up No. 2 on the list before he retires.
“All I can say is I’m looking to get to 84, then try to look at going to 85,” he said. “You can’t look ahead to what Pearson has done. That’s too far out there to even be thinking about right now.”
Gordon did appear to have been doing some thinking about what might come for him after he’s done driving. Somewhat surprisingly for someone who has made regular appearances on TV talk shows like “Live With Regis and Kelly,” he seemed to be leaning toward a behind-the-scenes role and one that involves racing.
“I love racing,” he said. “I love the business of racing. I love the driving.
I love the team aspect of it. Racing is first and foremost for me.
“I’m certainly comfortable in front of a camera, and I’ve had a lot of experience being in front of a camera [but] I’ll be honest, most of the things I think about I’d prefer to be behind the scenes, orchestrating, organizing and directing.”
Gordon didn’t rule out a second career in another form of motorsports, such as sports car racing, where the various series generally run far fewer races a season than Gordon is used to running.
“I like driving, but, even more, I like being competitive,” he said. “If there was something I feel like I could still be competitive at, yeah, I would do it.”
He said he also has a passion for his foray into the wine business and for the work he does with his charitable foundation, but there’s one job he puts above them all.
“The most important thing is being a father to two kids,” he said. “My next career might be seeing them pursue whatever their dreams are. That could be racing or it could be gymnastics or who knows.”