NASCAR & Auto Racing

Fans stay true to Jeff Gordon despite losing out on fifth career championship

Jeff Gordon signs autographs for his fans Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway before his final race.
Jeff Gordon signs autographs for his fans Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway before his final race. FOR THE Miami HERALD

Jeff Gordon was not able to give his fans what they wanted Sunday night.

Gordon, a racing icon competing in the final race of his career, never seriously challenged to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 or, even more important, to walk away with the Sprint Cup championship trophy.

For most of the race, Gordon was hanging around in the vicinity of the10th spot before moving up to sixth in the final laps. Only at the beginning of the race, when Gordon held the lead from Lap 36 through Lap 44, were his fans able to meaningfully whoop it up.

But even though he lost Sunday night, Gordon did not lose his fans and their loyalty, as proved by what those fans had to say:

▪ Pam Memmi, 52: “I’m glad to have seen his final race. I don’t know if I’ll be interested in NASCAR with him retiring. I’ve followed him for about 10 years. It’s too much to explain — to put in words — what he has meant to NASCAR.”

▪ Deedee Stack, 43: “I was really hoping he would win this race. I’m a little sad, but he’s had a great career. Of course, I’ll miss him, but I’m still going to root for No. 24 [Gordon’s car that will be driven by Chase Elliott next season]. I’m going to become a Chase fan.”

▪ Andrew Schede, 25: “He’s one of the biggest of names, so if he doesn’t win, you are disappointed. So, yes, I was disappointed [Sunday night]. I will stay loyal to him — you have to stay loyal. At the end of the day, I’m a big, big fan. And Gordon will officially be a legend after [Sunday night].”

▪ Amir Ghaeenzadeh, 28: “Gordon has done a great job over the years. He didn’t win [Sunday night], but you never know what will happen — that’s what makes it exciting. Gordon has been awesome.”

GOODBYE CARD

Part of the Gordon fanfare Sunday included fans in a designated portion of the stands holding up placards just before the start of the race. The cards they held up combined to give Gordon a fond farewell. They spelled out, “Thank you, Jeff. 24 Forever.”

TOP ROOKIE

Brett Moffitt, finishing 31st, was named the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

Even with that honor, Moffitt admitted his future is uncertain.

“Not sure what I’ll be doing,” he said, pointing out he has no guarantees to race in any series — Truck, Xfinity or Sprint Cup. “My slate is clean.”

THE FINAL LAP

Chris Buescher won the Xfinity Series title at Homestead, always a good steppingstone into Sprint Cup racing.

That will happen, but the question is how much he will race in Sprint Cup next year.

“We are still not sure what his arrangement will be,” car owner Jack Roush said. “He will be involved in a Cup car to some extent but whether it is a part-time program or full program we are still in the midst of finalizing the conditions of that. We have a number of possibilities.”

STREET SWEEPERS

Debris on the race track is not unusual during a race.

However, debris on the track before the race is not customary, but that’s exactly what took place Sunday.

Seems as though the fans enjoying the Tim McGraw prerace concert were — to put it nicely — not too neat. To put it not so nicely, they were a bunch of litterbugs.

The track had to be cleaned up before the race, which already had been postponed by rain, could begin.

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