After more than 20 years of racing in the Cup series, Jeff Gordon remains as elusive as ever. The best thing he’s done in recent memory was a prank test drive for Pepsi – and he didn’t even play himself. Let’s take that as a sign that we’re losing touch with Gordon and he’s losing touch with NASCAR. These days, his hair is a little more gray than it is rainbow. Sure, the Wonder Boy hasn’t caught too many breaks this season and it's too early to worry about the Chase, but does he really deserve that lifetime contract Rick Hendrick handed to him?
If anything, Gordon is having more success as the co-owner of the 48 car, driven by teammate and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Though Gordon has the lifetime contract, he has only four championships to Johnson’s five – and Gordon’s last championship came 12 years ago. That was in 2001, when Michael Jordan returned to the NBA and Lance Armstrong won his third consecutive Tour de France. 2001 was also the year Johnson began racing in Cup. Let’s just say it’s been a long time since the 41-year-old Gordon and his Rainbow Warriors have won a championship.
So long, in fact, they aren’t even dubbed the Rainbow Warriors anymore. Gordon’s crew has been swapped around extensively, and he has had three different crew chiefs in the time since he last won a championship. Maybe the days of Gordon spraying Pepsi in Victory Lane have passed. Though he’s won races in the last two seasons, he went winless in 2008 and 2010, something he hadn’t done since his first 30-plus race season in 1993. He may have catalyzed the youth movement in the sport, but now the youth are leaving him far behind.
Maybe it’s time for Gordon to call it quits. He has a wife and two children now, and wants to spend time with them. Gordon doesn’t look the same anymore, and I’m not just talking about the mustache. He’s a huge figure in the sport, that’s for sure. But sometimes it’s better to quit before your shadow outruns you.