Jeff Gordon: Running Sprint Cup races after 2015 ‘highly unlikely’

Not long after announcing last month that 2015 would be his last season as a full-time driver in the Sprint Cup Series, Jeff Gordon left open the door for the possibility of driving in select races in 2016 and perhaps beyond.

Speaking on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, the Hendrick Motorsports driver all but completely slammed the door shut on competing in NASCAR’s top series once this season concludes.

Asked about why he might consider running the Brickyard 500 in future years — a possibility Gordon broached during the recent Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour — the four-time champion struck a much different tone during a press conference Thursday morning at The World Center of Racing.

"It’s highly unlikely that that’s going to happen — or any other race, in my opinion," Gordon said. "That’s just not my game plan. I have too much respect for other drivers that have ended their career — or said they were going to end their career of driving Cup cars — and then they want to come back and run some more races. I felt like because I have so much respect for those guys that it was necessary for me to leave those options open, but when I start really thinking about it from a realistic standpoint, what I love about racing is not going out there driving fast and driving race cars.

"I like competing at a high level to win, and if I felt like I could go to a Brickyard or Martinsville or Bristol or, I don’t know, a couple tracks that come to mind, and be competitive with a competitive team, then I might consider doing that, but I don’t know how that would ever play, because you can’t do it at Hendrick, really, the way I see it."

Gordon is handing over the wheel of his iconic No. 24 Hendrick Chevrolet in 2016 to reigning Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott, who will compete alongside teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne on a full-time basis. While NASCAR allows organizations to field up to five cars in select events — Hendrick will do so a handful of times this year with Elliott in a fifth team car — Gordon doesn’t see himself occasionally racing a fifth Hendrick car once he hangs up his full-time driving helmet.

"There’s four teams there that are focused on winning the championship, so it would be a disruption to that flow," Gordon said. "Then you’ve got to have somebody as a car owner, you’ve got to team up with somebody who can pull together a team, pull together good cars and engines, and then you’ve got to get sponsors.

"So I don’t see it happening, but if I were to do it, if it did become a reality, certainly Indianapolis would be pretty high on my list of tracks. It would have to be something non-restricted and it would have to be at a place that I feel like I can make a difference and really be competitive at, and Indianapolis is one of those tracks that comes to mind."