Jeff Gordon has spent half his life turning left at NASCAR's highest level. Now, at 43, he says this will be his last full-time season as a driver.
Remember Gordon in 1994? He won the first of his 92 Cup races then, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He had a skimpy moustache -- "It just looked ridiculous," he told me last year, reminiscing for this story -- and incredible talent. He cried through the last 10 laps of that race.
Now in 2015, Gordon will be taking his last laps as a driver. The four-time Cup champion is still near the top of the pack, making the playoffs and coming very close to a spot in the final four last season.
Gordon has always struck me as one of the most thoughtful people in racing. So if he thinks it's time, it's time. He has had some injury problems over the past few years -- mostly chronic back pain -- and he is a doting father. He and his wife have a son and a daughter.
As he told me last year: "My daughter.... lights up when I walk in a room. When I leave she says, 'Where are you going? Don't leave?' A lot of times I wish I didn't have to run off."
He won't have to run off nearly as much after this season, although knowing Gordon I am sure he will stay busy. Third on the all-time win list (trailing only Richard Petty and David Pearson), it would be a fairytale ending if Gordon could win a fifth and final championship in his final season.
That likely won't happen. But who knows? I still remember what Gordon said in 1994, when I covered his very first win at CMS.
Said Gordon then: "This is the highest feeling in the world.... If I only win one Winston Cup race in my career, I'd be happy."