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Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick has made no secret of Jeff Gordon one day stepping into a larger leadership role at the organization when the time comes for him to retire.
Gordon, who holds an ownership stake with Hendrick Motorsports which includes the No. 48 team of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, opened up about the potential of taking on more responsibility before his induction into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame on Sunday night in Charlotte, North Carolina — less than one week before his official induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2019 on Feb. 1.
“I can tell you how long those conversations have been going on and it’s a long time,” Gordon said during the NMPA Hall of Fame press conference. “I would love to be in that position one day.”
But those conversations between Gordon and Hendrick about his future, along with his decision to retire from full-time competition in 2015, have all begun well before any actual moves have been made.
“When I made the decision to step away from driving, that decision was made three years before I actually did it,” Gordon said. “I went to Rick and told him what I wanted to do and felt like it was the right time. I felt like there were things starting to line up with Chase Elliott, so those things were playing out well, timing-wise, for me and I thought for Hendrick.”
Gordon said that taking over would be just another way for him to show appreciation for his team owner and close friend who gave him an outlet to build a Hall of Fame-worthy career with four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championships and 93 race wins.
“I have so much respect for the organization in being not just an equity owner, but for what they’ve done for me, what that organization has done for my career,” Gordon said. “I feel like I owe that back to them to be respectful and try to give all I can back to continue to see it be successful, even when I stepped away. … I knew one day when I stepped away that I would play a larger role.”
But Hendrick, 69, isn’t ready to step away from his full-time ownership role just yet, which allowed Gordon to make the decision to sign a multi-year contract extension with FOX Sports as a race analyst in early January — a decision his former team owner has always fully supported.
“Of course, in those three years with FOX, more and more of those conversations started happening with Rick,” he said. “I just told him, ‘Rick, I’m really liking TV and I don’t think you’re quite ready and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to move into that role, so I’m probably going to sign an extension or new contract with FOX to keep doing that.’ ”
Gordon reaffirmed that he’s thoroughly enjoying his time in the live broadcast booth, and that has allowed him to become more comfortable speaking in front of larger groups. Although he didn’t want to put a date on it, Gordon confirmed that the idea of taking over for Hendrick catches his interest.
“I love the business side of it,” said Gordon. “If that day ever comes, I would be truly honored even though I don’t think I could do the job that he’s done, I would be truly honored to take that role on.
“As I say that, that would be the first time other than when my parents made me sweep floors and run the machine shop when I was a kid during summers where I actually had a real job,” he added. “… Running a race team or being in that role on a race team, that is a real job. … That role Rick would have to put me in is one I would have to work at really, really hard. I hope one day when that time comes, I would be ready to do that.”