CONCORD, N.C. – When Jeff Gordon thinks back to his final victory at Martinsville Speedway in 2015, it brings back a flood of feelings.
Appearing on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) on Wednesday morning, the four-time champion and team vice chairman reflected on his 93rd and final NASCAR Cup Series win. A victory that propelled him into the Championship 4 in his final full-time season.
"That sent chills up my spine hearing that (replay of his 2015 win)," Gordon said on "The Morning Drive" program. "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."
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Gordon won nine times at the .526-mile track, which is tied for the most in team history with Jimmie Johnson. All told, Hendrick Motorsports has 27 wins at the Virginia venue. The company’s first Cup Series win came at Martinsville with Geoff Bodine’s victory in 1984.
"If you talk to (team owner) Rick Hendrick, he’ll tell you that was a pivotal moment for Hendrick Motorsports in continuing to be in the Cup Series," Gordon said. "Martinsville has a lot of history that has a lot to do with Hendrick Motorsports’ history and the sport’s history.
"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."
In the wide-ranging conversation, Gordon also touched on several other topics including his transition to an executive role and the company’s involvement with Garage 56.
On managing the fill-in driver situation with the No. 9 team due to Chase Elliott's injury and interim crew chiefs due to suspensions: "You are not truly a vice chairman or a car owner until you have to go through these types of situations. There is a lot of stress and tough decisions that have to be made. How do we look at the positives and come out of it stronger on the other end because of it? The teams working together the way they’ve had to, especially the crew chiefs and the situation with the penalties, that’s brought them closer together. I think that could pay off for us in the long run.
"I think Chase Elliott going through rehabilitation for his injury and looking at the races from the TV or through his computer and monitoring it along with the race team. I think there’s positives that are going to come out of that for Chase when he gets back in there. I know he is extremely hungry and anxious to get back in there."
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On his transition to an executive role with Hendrick Motorsports: "I’m really enjoying it. As stressful and challenging as things are at times, I love the challenge. I feel like everything that I have done throughout my racing career has really led me to this position and I feel so honored really to have the trust of Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports to be in this position. I am also very fortunate to be put into a very good situation. The people there are what the success is all about. It makes my job a whole lot easier and allows me to go focus in the areas that I think need a little bit more attention and allow the competition side and the marketing side to do their thing because they do it so well.
I am enjoying the time that I get to spend with Rick Hendrick. 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."
On if he was tempted to be a driver for Garage 56: "I’ve driven a little bit in some simulators around the Garage 56 program and I was on the fence about whether or not I might do Le Mans in the Garage 56 car. Then, when I saw the schedule, the commitment, the testing and everything it was going to take to do it properly. I knew I couldn’t do that and continue to do the vice chairman job the way I want to do it and represent Hendrick Motorsports."
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On the upcoming Garage 56 entry at Le Mans: "It’s going really well. We won’t really know until we go out on the track at Le Mans because everything has been through either simulation or on-track here in the U.S. We’ve got a great driver lineup with Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller. I’m so proud of (vice president of competition) Chad Knaus, all the people at Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet, Goodyear and NASCAR. It has been quite a collaboration to do this. It is not a Next Gen car. It is a G56 car all the way. Somebody told me it was around eight seconds faster at COTA than the Cup cars qualified. That goes to show you what is needed to take place. I’m really excited and looking forward to getting over to Le Mans in June."