As a fan, going pro in your favorite sport seems like a dream job. Take NASCAR, for example: wouldn’t it be a sweet gig to climb into a race car, do some laps around the track, and take home a sizable paycheck at the end of the weekend. During his legendary career, Jeff Gordon lived that reality for 25 seasons.
While the motorsports star loved what he did and enjoyed his time behind the wheel, he made a surprising confession in February 2018. Jeff Gordon never raced for fun.
Jeff Gordon was one of NASCAR’s biggest stars
If you watched NASCAR during a certain era, the sight of a rainbow, number 24 Dupont car is probably burnt into your memory. There’s a good reason for that: Jeff Gordon, the man behind the wheel of that iconic ride, is one of the best drivers that the world of motorsports has ever seen.
While Gordon’s California roots may have made him a bit different than other drivers on the NASCAR circuit, he didn’t waste any time proving that he could drive as well as any southerner. He claimed the 1991 Busch Series Rookie of the Year title and never looked back. Before long, he was posting double-digit wins seasons and claiming back-to-back Cup Series championships.
While things eventually slowed down, Jeff Gordon still posted one of the best careers in NASCAR history. He piled up 94 Cup Series victories, 477 top-ten finishes, and four overall championships.
That success helped him build an impressive fortune
When you’re a big-time star in any sport, you’re going to reap the financial rewards. That was certainly true for Jeff Gorton during his time on the NASCAR circuit.
In December 2017, Forbes’ Kurt Badenhausen listed Gordon as one of the highest-paid athletes of all-time with a grand total of $525 million; that number shouldn’t be a surprise given his on-track success and big-name endorsement deals. Even in retirement, though, his bottom line is probably still increasing.
While he’s no longer behind the wheel, Gordon inked a lifetime agreement as “an equity partner in the ownership of his No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet team,” according to motorsport.com. He also has his own wine label and covers NASCAR for Fox, among other business ventures.
Jeff Gordon never took part in a NASCAR race for fun
During his time as a NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon participated in more than 800 races in the Cup Series alone. While he had plenty of enjoyable moments as a pro, he never raced purely for fun.
In a 2018 conversation with Jeff Hayden of Inc., Gordon was asked if he missed racing. While the driver admitted that he did “once in a while,” he also said that he never climbed behind the wheel hoping to have a good time.
“Driving in the Rolex 24 in 2017 was a great reminder of two things. One, I like driving race cars, but the amount of effort you have to put into it to be successful is a massive,” Gordon explained. “I don’t take that for granted and don’t want to just get behind the wheel for fun.”
The discussion of fun, however, didn’t end there.
“In fact, I honestly don’t know what it would be like to get behind the wheel for ‘fun,” the NASCAR legend continued. “Every time I got in the car I was pushing myself harder, other people were pushing me… whatever you’re doing is never, ever enough. You can never be too fast. If you’re fast, you’re pushing to get faster. You can never win enough. Win one championship and you’re pushing to win another.”
With all of that being said, though, Jeff Gordon still enjoyed his time as a professional race car driver. It’s pretty tough, after all, to do anything for 25 years if you don’t have fun.
“That doesn’t mean racing wasn’t fun,” he concluded,” but I never got behind the wheel just for fun.”