|Brickyard Power Rankings|
|Jeff Gordon was huddled in the lounge of his hauler, waiting for his next obligation during a preseason event at Daytona when a sudden confluence of his day job and many side gigs captivated his attention.|
Regis Philbin, the 79-year-old figurehead of a popular morning chat show Gordon has often guest hosted, had announced his retirement, and the 39-year-old four-time Sprint Cup champion was leading an internet poll as the fans' choice for Philbin's full-time replacement.
"What's that all about?" he cackled, a grin consuming his face. "I haven't got the call."
Then he thought it through a little more. He does have that place in New York, anyway. He's pretty open except for most weekends.
"Monday through Thursday, that that doesn't sound like a bad gig," he pondered.
Watch Paul Menard capture his first cup victory and the rest of the sights and sounds from the Brickyard 400.
Most race car drivers, regardless of their success or longevity, never have such considerations. Most aren't Jeff Gordon. But a 20-year career, 84 wins, four titles and a willingness to sample life beyond the security of familiar racing culture has provided opportunities that allowed him to create a new template for what a modern race car driver can be. He did the same thing in the early 1990s, when his supernova arrival in NASCAR made him both a lionized and vilified icon for a growing legions of fans, and an idol to young drivers on dusty tracks throughout the country who saw the path to stardom redefined by the kid from Indiana, via California.
The kid once dubbed "Wonder Boy" by his foil and friend and mentor Dale Earnhardt turns 40 on Thursday. And he seems ready for the next chapter.
"Birthdays to me are just sort of another day, another year," said Gordon, who is seventh in driver points and a two-time winner this season. "It's not a big deal for me."
Evidently not. Gordon will lead the NASCAR power rankings on his birthday, because he earned it. But he's probably also really hard to shop for.