During their post-race press conference this past Sunday after the Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Kyle Larson turned to one of his racing idols, Jeff Gordon, and quipped that Gordon “has been racing the Cup Series as long as I’ve been alive.”
That brought both a smile and a quip in reply from Gordon, who is 43 years old to Larson’s 21 years.
“I needed to hear that,” Gordon laughed in return.
We’re not saying Gordon is old, but his age and the length of his racing career will be a notable achievement at this Sunday’s second Chase race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
With Jeff Burton due to miss the race for the first time in his career (Burton has been running only part-time this season in preparation for retirement from racing at season’s end and a move to a full-time analyst for NASCAR on NBC next season), Gordon will become the only driver to have raced in all 40 Sprint Cup races to be held at the one-mile track in Loudon, N.H.
Gordon has had an exceptional record at NHMS. In 39 starts to date, he’s earned three wins, 16 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes. But in addition to reaching 40 starts there, Gordon has another goal he’d like to achieve: he hasn’t won there since 1998.
In a season that could result with Gordon’s fifth career Sprint Cup championship (and first since 2001), what better way to strengthen his bid for the “Drive For Five” than to mark Sunday’s milestone with a win.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.