Jeff Gordon doesn’t like to second-guess things, but he had plenty of thoughts running through his head of what might have been at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
At the beginning of the month, Gordon saw his championship dreams severely hampered by a late-race wreck with Brad Keselowski at Texas Motor Speedway. Gordon was in position to win that race until Keselowski’s daring move took them both out.
That essentially ruined Gordon’s hopes of making the inaugural “Final Four” to win the championship, and Gordon tussled with Keselowski on pit road afterward for what most believed was a boneheaded move by the easy-to-hate Keselowski.
As expected, Gordon didn’t win the next race and was out of the mix for the championship going into the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami two weeks after Texas.
Does Gordon think of what might have been? He was the pole-sitter at Homestead-Miami, and led laps in the race.
“I certainly think about it when we were leading all those laps at Homestead,” Gordon said during a promotional appearance Thursday at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. “Everything happens for a reason. I’m a big believer in that and always have been. I’m kind of a big believer in karma.
“I don’t know why that [Texas] race ended the way it did. We had all the cautions we did there at the end and didn’t get the win and had the incident with Brad. It’s certainly a learning experience. I’ve never shied away from controversy or bringing some extra excitement to the sport either, but it was disappointing not to be going for the championship when I felt like we were a team that was very deserving of it.”
If things had played out differently and, let’s say, Gordon had won a championship last year, he wouldn’t have retired after last season, even if it meant “going out on top.”
“It wouldn’t have changed anything,” Gordon said. “That was the business side of it. I had obligations and commitments I made no matter what.”
Hundreds of fans greeted Gordon, who did a few burnouts on a nearby street and held a Q&A session with fans.
These types of events are customary for drivers, but this had a different feel since it is Gordon’s last full-time Sprint Cup season.
He’s leaving open the possibility of racing in the future, possibly races such as the 24 Hours of LeMans, but stock-car racing is what Gordon will always be known for.
“Jeff is perhaps the most respected driver in the sport today by the fans,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “He’s grown into the elder statesman, from ‘Wonder Boy’ to the elder statesman.
“Jeff really is a transformative figure in this sport’s history, probably more than just about anybody.”
Gordon said he never set out to become one of the sport’s defining drivers. He just wanted to have success as a rare driver coming from California instead of one of the southern states.
“I wasn’t your typical NASCAR driver, so I like the challenge of doing things different,” Gordon said. “And now by looking back on it, by having the success and doing things different, it did open up some unique opportunities and doors that did help grow the sport and bring unique and different fans and new fans to the sport.
“For that I’m very honored and proud to be a part of that, but I feel like I’m one of a 100 to play a role in that.”
Gossage on Busch
Gossage is never shy to share his opinion, and he gave it in talking about how NASCAR handled the Kurt Busch situation.
Busch was suspended days before the Daytona 500 in February after a Delaware family court commissioner ruled that Busch more likely than not committed an act of domestic violence. But the Delaware attorney general’s office announced last week that it would not pursue criminal charges, saying it wouldn’t be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
That led NASCAR to reinstate Busch this week.
Gossage said he believes the way the Busch case was handled stems from how the NFL has handled similar incidents, particularly the Ray Rice case that drew widespread criticism.
“Kurt’s problems are the results of the mishandling by the NFL,” Gossage said. “The NFL’s bungling in having so many characters of ill repute playing their game has changed it for everybody.
“It’s unfair to [Busch] that just on an accusation he gets kicked out of a way to make a living. It just doesn’t make sense to me. But the NFL’s policy is the same way.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760
Duck Commander 500
April 11, Texas Motor Speedway