I have been a fan of Jeff Gordon since I first saw him race a winged sprint car when he was still a teenager. While I tend to be curmudgeonly and cynical about the current state of racing this article is meant to sincere. Jeff won his fifth Brickyard 400 this past weekend and seems bound for another Cup Championship. One might say that this win was another of the many “coincidences” in the history of NASCAR I’ll leave that angle to others in this particular case.
I know this next statement will raise many hackles but I will say it anyway. Jeff Gordon is the greatest driver in the history of NASCAR. He was the harbinger of the greatest era in NASCAR (though the glow is fading fast). Jeff opened the eyes of many open wheel fans to stock car racing and TV contracts grew, attendance peaked, driver salaries maxed, and NASCAR became a household word. For American drivers the road to NASCAR became “the road more travelled.” Open wheel racing became an also-ran.
But what might have been if Jeff had stayed with his roots. This is all purely conjecture on my part but it is fun to speculate. I certainly don’t think that if Jeff had climbed the open wheel ladder to IndyCar or F1 he would have completely changed the course of racing history, no one driver could do that, but I think he would have succeeded and many more fans and drivers would have followed. Even further, what would have been Jeff’s results? Once again this is pure conjecture. Would he have won multiple Indy 500s? Could he have been a multiple World Champion? I think yes. The question is, would this have been a greater legacy? I also think yes to that.
I’m sure that Jeff has no regrets. He took what some would say a safer, more secure path, but we need to remember that he was a pioneer venturing into somewhat unknown territory. Clearly Jeff’s career is not over and the talent is still there. Good luck to him in the future. His NASCAR legacy is unsurpassed and nothing can change that. It’s just intriguing to consider what his career, IndyCar, and F1 might look like today if he had chosen the other path.
© throughthecatchfence 2014