Jeff Gordon's Career Wraps Up, But His Impact on NASCAR Carries On

Last night, Jeff Gordon completed NASCAR’s season finale at Homestead-Miami with a sixth-place finish. In doing so he wrote his final chapter as a full-time NASCAR driver. It’s the end of an incredible career, and what cannot be overstated is Gordon’s impact on the world of stock car racing. When Gordon entered the Busch racing series back in 1990, the sport was still firmly planted in the old ways. The notion of a photogenic, media-friendly personality in NASCAR driver just didn’t seem conceivable. Nor was the notion of NASCAR being considered a true mainstream sport, enjoying coverage on NASCAR in between football and basketball. As explained by USA Today, this conflicting image made for great on-track rivalries with drivers like Dale Earnhardt Sr., but the two had a strong friendship (and eventually a business partnership) off the track. RELATED: Read A Noob's Guide to NASCAR RELATED: The Awesome, Short-Lived NASCAR Convertible Racing Division As this video shows, Gordon became the template for the modern NASCAR driver. Media-savvy, family-friendly, and capable of grace in both victory and defeat, following the Gordon template was a safe move for teams looking to keep their wealthy sponsors happy. Today, drivers that fight, intentionally wreck, and pop off to the press are now the outlier, and no longer the norm. On paper, you could look towards Gordon’s 93 race wins and four championships (third and fourth on the all-time win list, respectively). But to truly understand the impact that Gordon has had on the sport, simply turn on the TV and observe just how much of a mainstream sport NASCAR has become. RELATED: Understanding the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Photo Credit: Peter Casey/USA Today Sports