If four-time NASCAR Premier Series champion Jeff Gordon’s career is indeed over, he ended it on a solid note, finishing sixth at the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
It wasn’t a victory, like Gordon earned in this race a year ago, but it was nothing to apologize for, either, especially on a day where Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson won.
And especially not at the track where 12 years ago, 10 Hendrick family members, friends and business associates were killed in an airplane crash on the way to the track.
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Martinsville is a special place for Gordon and the team and the perfect track to run what in all likelihood will be his final Premier Series race.
For his career — again, assuming this is his last race — Gordon’s final stats will read 805 starts, 81 poles, 93 race victories, 325 top-five and 476 top-10 finishes, along with 24,936 laps led.
And with those numbers, Gordon will be an ironclad lock to be a first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility.
After the race, though, Gordon had the classic racer’s lament: He wanted to win and didn’t.
“I would rather have won,” said Gordon who drove his eighth and final race of the year substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. “I felt like we had a fourth- or fifth-place car the run before that so I always wanted to get the most out of it.”
It was not for lack of effort, that much is certain.
“I was a little disappointed it didn't take off there at the last yellow, but very proud of this team,” said Gordon. “Proud of my performance. Best finish I've had in this car. Good way to finish my run this year in the No. 88 Chevy.”