Jeff Gordon retiring from NASCAR as full-time racer

Letting team know this will be my final year competing for a championship. — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) January 22, 2015 CONCORD, NC (FOX Carolina) - NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon announced Thursday plans to retire as a full-time racer. Hendrick Motorsports released a statement online, which states Gordon's 2015 season will be his 23rd and his final full-time Sprint Cup Series season . Gordon announced his decision to his Hendrick Motorsports team and to his followers on Twitter Thursday morning. “As a race car driver, much of what I've done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions,” Gordon said, per the statement. “I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason, and I've decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship. I won't use the ‘R-word' because I plan to stay extremely busy in the years ahead, and there's always the possibility I'll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans to do that. Gordon said he will continue to be involved in racing and with Hendrick Motorsports. “I don't foresee a day when I'll ever step away from racing. I'm a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I'm passionate about the business and its future success. As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, I'm a partner with Rick (Hendrick) and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come. It means so much to have the chance to continue working with the owner who took a chance on me and the incredible team that's stood behind me every step of the way. “Racing has provided a tremendous amount of opportunity that's been extraordinarily rewarding and fulfilling in my life. The work we're doing with the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation will continue to be extremely important to me. Outside the race car, my passion is pediatric cancer research, and my efforts will remain focused there when I'm no longer driving. “I'll explore opportunities for the next phase of my career, but my primary focus now and throughout 2015 will be my performance in the No. 24 Chevrolet. I'm going to pour everything I have into this season and look forward to the challenge of competing for one last championship. “To everyone at NASCAR, my teammates, sponsors, competitors, friends, family, members of the media and especially our incredible fans, all I can say is thank you.” Gordon, 43, has earned four career Cup championships, 92 points-paying race wins and 77 pole positions, all for Hendrick Motorsports, who Gordon has raced for since Nov.1992. Gordon is third in all-time victories behind only NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105), according to a statement from Hendrick motorsports. Gordon earned three Daytona 500 victories, a record five Brickyard 400 wins, and stands alone as the all-time leader with 12 restrictor plate wins and has won at every track on the Sprint Cup circuit except the Kentucky Speedway. “There's simply no way to quantify Jeff's impact,” said longtime car owner Rick Hendrick. “He's one of the biggest sports stars of a generation, and his contributions to the success and growth of NASCAR are unsurpassed. There's been no better ambassador for stock car racing and no greater representation of what a champion should be. I will never be able to properly express the respect and admiration I have for Jeff and how meaningful our relationship is to me. I'm so grateful for everything he's done for our company and my family, and I look forward to many more years together as friends and business partners.” Hendrick Motorsports has not yet announced plans for its 2016 team alignment. NASCAR's Chairman and CEO, Brian France, released a statement Thursday afternoon, calling Gordon's retirement announcement bittersweet. “Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race," France said. "We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season. His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe. Today's announcement is a bittersweet one. I'll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Jeff for his years of dedication and genuine love for this sport, and wish him the very best in his final season.”

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