I still can’t believe 2015 will be the last year Jeff Gordon competes for a Sprint Cup title.
Gordon was arguably among the top three or four drivers throughout the 2014 Sprint Cup season, so the news of Gordon’s retirement (he won’t call it that) reverberated throughout the sport. Let’s break down the news, what it means and how it will change the way Sprint Cup fans watch racing in 2015.
Odds Gordon Wins The 2015 Sprint Cup: 6/1
The Spread has Gordon with the second shortest odds to win the 2015 Sprint Cup, tied with Kevin Harvick and only behind Jimmie Johnson at 5/1. Gordon won four races last year and was a Ryan Newman sideswipe of being in Homestead contending for a fifth title. Health permitting, Nascar fans don’t need more than one hand to think of more likely contenders, and it would be quite the way to end a legendary career.
Odds Gordon Wins The Daytona 500: 10/1
Gordon has the fifth best average finish among active drivers and has won six times at Daytona. However, the average finish of drivers at Daytona is much higher than most other Sprint Cup tracks. Trevor Bayne and David Ragan have wins at Daytona; so while Gordon could easily win, so could have the field. Remember, Danica Patrick and David Gilliland won the pole here.
Odds Chase Elliott Replaces Gordon: Even Money
It took about 2.4 second for the Elliott replaces Gordon talk to begin, though Rick Hendrick quickly deflected the talk back to Gordon’s career. On one hand, it seems logical for Elliott to ride in the No. 24; he has the skill and tempermant to replace a legend.
On the other hand, it looks too simple. There are sponsors to consider and older drivers who might better fit that sponsor. There are also dozens of drivers who might have interest in finding their way to a Hendrick garage. Plus, The Elliott family has been quite astute in wanting to ease Chase into the Sprint Cup. I suspect Elliott finds his way into the Hendrick stable, but it may not be as we all suspect or assume.
Odds Jeff Gordon Owns His Own Sprint Cup Team in 20 Years: 3/1
Gordon said he plans on continuing to partner with Hendrick Motorsports; it is the only team he has ever known. That said, Gordon has connections with mainstream American that few other drivers can access. In a world where sponsors drive the bus, it’s fair to at least consider if a competitive person like Gordon might want to try and run his own show. Michael Jordan did it. John Elway did. Derek Jeter has been rumored to want to join the club. Let’s not forget Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Tony Stewart.
Jeff Gordon’s success helped springboard Nascar into a billion dollar brand. It will be strange to not see him on the track in 2016. Gordon won’t go away quietly on the track, and his voice will have a profound impact on Nascar for decades to come.