If any highlight of Jeff Gordon's final season sticks out, the victory celebration at Martinsville likely tops the list.
"We're going to Homestead!" Gordon shrieked like a schoolboy after his triumph in November.
The four-time Sprint Cup champion likely won't ever race Martinsville again, and he knows that a moment of pure joy such as that one might never come again for him in any professional setting.
"I don't know if anything can quite fulfill that, other than seeing my kids excel at something and do something extraordinary that I would be really proud of," Gordon said Tuesday. "That would probably be the only thing that could either match it or top it."
His burden is wanting to do well every time the television camera goes on and the mic goes hot. But it's nothing like getting in a race car and having to perform on Sundays against the best in the world. He admits he has a pretty good deal right now.
"There's pressure but not the same kind of pressure," Gordon said. "And I'm enjoying that. At 44 years old, the place that I am at in life, I look forward to going to the racetrack and enjoying myself at the racetrack.
"I was ready for that. . . . I'm probably putting more pressure on myself than I anticipated being in the booth, but I can tell you it's not like being in the race car."
If he has strong feelings to get back into a race car, Gordon certainly isn't showing it, though Martinsville might be one place where he yearns to race a little more than most. He has nine career victories on the 0.526-mile oval.
As long as he holds an equity stake in Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick has four cars, Gordon can't race in Sprint Cup unless he competes for Hendrick because of NASCAR's rule that an owner or driver cannot have a financial stake in, or benefit from the performance of, more than four cars. Gordon's stake in HMS already maxes him out at four.
He could drive a truck at Martinsville, but Gordon indicated that he would be more apt to compete in something under the NASCAR umbrella that wasn't a national stock car series. The Corvette sports car program is the one that would seem most logical, either at the Rolex 24 At Daytona (run by NASCAR subsidiary IMSA) or the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Gordon appears quite content with his retirement. A year ago, he sat 22nd in the standings five races into the season.
"I thought I would..."
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