Your average NASCAR fan would probably have a tough time picking the greatest moment of Jeff Gordon's career. After all, with four championships and 93 Cup Series wins to his name, the NASCAR Hall of Famer and current Vice Chairman for Hendrick Motorsports had so many iconic moments on the track. But, for Gordon himself, picking that best moment is a no-brainer. It was his final Cup win — the 2015 Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway — that served as the perfect ending to Gordon's 25-year career in NASCAR's highest level.
During a recent appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive," Gordon recalled his emotional victory at the Virginia track.
"That sent chills up my spine hearing that (replay of his 2015 win)," Gordon said. "It really was the ultimate experience for me. Just the timing of it. In a blink of an eye, you relive the moment you got in a race car from the beginning to all the work that went in to getting you to the Cup Series, NASCAR and to that moment in the final year. To see your kids (Ella and Leo) come running down that front straightaway to greet you and my wife (Ingrid). What it (the win) meant for the championship battle that year, the team and Hendrick Motorsports."
"There's no other experience anywhere on the circuit that close to the fans and you get to feel the energy from the fans. It just seemed to me that day there were more than Gordon fans that were sticking around as a part of that moment. That really meant the world to me and still does. That will be the greatest victory and the greatest moment of my racing career."
What made Gordon's final win at Martinsville all the more special is the track's significant ties to Hendrick Motorsports. The Rick Hendrick-owned racing team has a total of 27 wins at Martinsville, with Gordon and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson each having nine wins there apiece (they're tied for the most in team history). On top of that, Rick Hendrick often references Geoff Bodine's victory for HMS at Martinsville in 1984, the team's first Cup win, as a crucial moment for the team.
Sadly, Martinsville is also the site of immense tragedy for the Hendrick Motorsports family. On October 24, 2004, a HMS-owned plane bound for Martinsville Speedway crashed into mountainous terrain near the NASCAR track. All 10 people onboard died, including Rick's son Ricky, his brother John, and John's twin daughters.
"Martinsville has a lot of history that has a lot to do with Hendrick Motorsports' history and the sport's history," Gordon said. "You also take the tragedy that happened there — it's a location and a track that stands out for good and for bad. Martinsville is a place that is embedded in our hearts. When we go back there, it is not just about winning and continuing to collect clocks, it's doing it to really honor those that we lost as well. Martinsville is a very, very special place for all of us at Hendrick Motorsports."
As you can imagine, given everything they've been through over the past 30 years, Jeff Gordon's relationship with Rick Hendrick is probably closer to father-son than it is to simply boss-employee. Today, Gordon seems to be settling nicely into his new executive role at HMS, which is not something he'd probably would've ever thought when he was trading paint with the likes of Dale Earnhardt in the '90s. Still, with a guy like Rick Hendrick in his corner, turning the page on that next chapter is a piece of cake.
"I am enjoying the time that I get to spend with Rick Hendrick," Gordon said. "Our relationship has always been really close, but the amount of time that I've been able to spend and learn from him and pick his brain. To not only be a partner with him and work for him, but feel like family. That means a lot to me."
MORE: Jeff Gordon's Run-in With Carl Edwards at the 2013 Atlanta Race Led to One of His Angriest Radio Outbursts
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