Oh really? Okay, that's news worthy to print.
So why does it leave me with a big, fat question mark?
Why only two years?
Several possibilities come to mind. Jeff Gordon has been there and done that. There is little else the four-time Cup Series Champion can do to further his position as one of the greats of NASCAR history.
Gordon is only four victories shy of third on the all-time wins list behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). His four championships are second only to Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. with seven each.
Gordon’s career win percentage is 15.6%, trailing only Petty (16.8%) though NASCAR’s history is kept in the “Modern Era” of post 1975. In the 1960’s when Petty won the majority of his races, NASCAR sanctioned events took place two or three nights a week, and Petty would show up and win at all three sometimes. Thus the inflated career numbers that can’t be matched today with only 36 points races a year on the calendar.
Jeff Gordon’s career winnings amount to over ninety-five million (yes, MILLION, Dr. Evil!) dollars (that’s winnings, not endorsements, folks). Compare that with Petty’s career earnings of just over five million, and Earnhardt, Sr. at just shy of $28 million. This disparity is an indicator of how times have changed in NASCAR over the past thirty years.
Gordon matched Petty for most wins in one season during the modern era in 1998 with 13, and has the most this, that, and the other of any active driver on the circuit.
So why only a two year deal?
“Curious,” Mr. Spock would say, raising an eyebrow.
Gordon is only 36 years old, which by today’s standards and youth movement makes him virtually a senior citizen in NASCAR. Yet Earnhardt, Sr. won four of his titles after reaching this age.
Could it be the wife and child? Possibly, especially considering he had what he called his “hardest” crash earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Gordon’s demeanor has changed since his engagement and marriage to Belgian supermodel Ingrid Vandebosch, and the birth of their daughter Ella last year. Maybe “Big Daddy” is ready to settle down and put the go-go-go of the 11-month NASCAR schedule behind him.
Consider today’s economic climate; few cars on the track carry a primary sponsor for the vast majority of the season as Gordon does. Secondary sponsors Pepsi and Nicorette grace the number 24 car for a handful of races during the year. Even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has two sponsors paying a reportedly 30 million combined annually to adorn his Hendrick ride. In this time when major names are drawing down their sponsorship budgets and partnering with others; such as Interstate Batteries and M&M/Mars on Kyle Busch’s number 18 car-money could just be the issue.
So perhaps DuPont is just treading lightly, waiting to see what Gordon does in the next two years? Twenty million annually was the estimated amount they were paying to sponsor Gordon during this current contract. He started with DuPont on the car, and wants to finish with them on the car.
And they’ve certainly gotten their money’s worth from the number 24 running up front and on the TV cameras for 16 years.
What if Gordon has quietly inked the proverbial writing on his own wall? Jeff has a promising career in television and royalties galore, plus ownership interest in Hendrick Motorsports, among other business ventures. One thing for certain is he won’t be hurting for cash.
I believe an interest in sports cars could provide him with the racing rush, but in a more sane environment and schedule. He did run the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2007, finishing third co-driving Wayne Taylor’s Suntrust Pontiac Prototype. Gordon is the also the winningest driver on road courses in NASCAR history, in case I didn’t mention that little factoid.
Allow me to be the first to pose that Jeff Gordon will retire by forty, unless he hits a winning surge similar to last year or his late 90’s runs, and/or gets that fifth championship he’s been pursuing now since 2001.
After all, NASCAR has changed its rules to the point where it’s prevented Jeff Gordon from having six championships in hand (which he would have, under the old points system-before the “Chase” format).
Maybe he’s growing tired of NASCAR’s rat race and is ready for a change of pace.
Come to think of it, I've grown a little tired of the "rats" running NASCAR myself.
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