In the end, a fifth championship wasn’t to be for Jeff Gordon.
But Gordon, who is now officially retired as a NASCAR driver, was able to put it all in perspective after finishing sixth in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final race of his 23-year career.
“This was a happy, good day,” said Gordon after Kyle Busch won the title by winning the race. “We wanted that title, but we’re still going to celebrate. I told everybody before the race we would be happy and celebrate, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Gordon, 44, is retiring after a career that will certainly land him a quick trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He won 93 races and four championships. The most recent of those victories – three weeks ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – earned him a spot in Sunday’s championship round at Homestead.
He drove his entire career for Hendrick Motorsports after moving to the Charlotte area from his adopted home of Pittsfield, Ind.
“Who would have ever thought that a sprint car driver could come south to North Carolina, then get an opportunity to drive for an owner like Rick Hendrick,” Gordon said. “It’s been the most amazing experience.
“He gave me the opportunity to race the best cars and with the best people. That allowed me to be here in final race vying for a championship.”
Gordon started fifth Sunday and moved quickly to the front, where he led nine laps of a rain-delayed race that began at about 4:45 p.m. But after a restart, he quickly fell off the pace and was unable to contend after that.
“I was a little disappointed, because I thought we had something for (the field),” Gordon said. “But when the sun went down, we didn’t quite have it when the track cooled down.”
Gordon will remain in the sport, going to work as a television analyst for Fox.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said.