Retirement has a different meaning for Jeff Gordon — like for a lot of NASCAR drivers. Sure, the now-47-year-old former No. 24 Chevrolet driver technically retired at the end of the 2015 Cup Series season, but that was only from full-time racing.
Since then, Gordon ran eight races during the 2016 season to fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who was out for the second half of the year with concussion symptoms — and has teased the idea of a possible return.
Early in the 2018 season, he said he’s thought about the possibility of doing a Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway — one of his best tracks — but nothing has come of that idea. He also drove the 24 car in a Super Bowl ad last year, but that doesn’t count.
So what would it take to get Gordon back behind the wheel on a race track? The perfect situation, basically.
“I’m always open-minded to the right circumstances, the right track, the right group of drivers,” Gordon told For The Win by phone Friday.
“I can’t help but want to go out there and compete against some of my older competitors, whether it be a Mark Martin or a Rusty Wallace or Tony Stewart or Dale Jr. I think under the right circumstances, like an exhibition race.”
During his 23 seasons as a full-time Cup Series driver, Gordon won four championships and 93 races, and he will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next week as a first-ballot inductee. He currently works for FOX Sports and broadcasts the first half of the Cup Series season, but he won’t rule out the possibility of a one-off return to a race car.
However, that fan-inspired suggestion about a lower-tier series race at Martinsville’s .526-mile track was nothing more than an idea, he said. He has nothing in the works right now, but he loves thinking about the possibility of a brief return.
“I don’t know if a truck race at Martinsville’s the right one — maybe it is,” Gordon continued. “But I think it’d be fun. But right now, I think I have as much fun thinking about it and talking about it as I (would with) the reality about it.”
If NASCAR could actually devise a plan to have an exhibition event for retired drivers, fans would almost certainly go nuts for it. And although it was Gordon’s hypothetically suggestion, he still said it would come down to a variety of factors.
“It depends on the cars, it depends on the track, it depends on the competitors,” he said. “But I would be open-minded to it.”
Would the NASCAR Hall of Famer really consider getting back behind the wheel?