2015 – One Era Ends and a New One Begins from a NASCAR Fan’s View

Rusty Norman

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Kyle Bush won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and did it by winning the last race of the 2015 season. He wasn’t always out front and didn’t necessarily dominate the race but, when it counted, he and his team came through with a dominating performance for the last several laps of the Ford Ecoboost 400. Kevin Harvick was in his mirror for those final laps but never really pressed Kyle at all for the victory and finished second in the race and in the standings.

Those are some of the historical facts of the finale at Homestead in this 2015 NASCAR Cup season. It was also the end of an era. Jeff Gordon ran his last race in the Cup series and is retiring now that the race is over. He won’t necessarily disappear and ride off into the sunset and he won’t likely become invisible anytime soon but his life will be different and so will the NASCAR Cup series. Fortunately for all Jeff Gordon fans he will be in the broadcast booth next season with Fox Sports and will still be involved with Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick for the foreseeable future.

There isn’t much that’s left to say about Jeff Gordon, his career and what he brought to NASCAR because, from this fan’s view, everybody and their brother (including their sisters) has said so much about the life and times of Jeff Gordon. Much was said over the entire season but most of it was said in the last several weeks as the time drew near for this, his final race in the NASCAR Cup series. It seemed to this fan that everyone had something to say about Jeff Gordon and 99.99% of it was definitely positive (and trust me, nobody is concerned about that .01% that may not have been.)

This fan is old enough to remember when Jeff Gordon broke into the Cup series (and honestly it doesn’t seem all that long ago.) Along with many other long time NASCAR fans, I wasn’t that much of a fan of his at first. He was just a kid coming in and we all had our own favorites at the time that we had followed for many years. I even remember that I wasn’t happy with him for the way he departed his ride in the Bush series and felt that he dumped them for an opportunity that wouldn’t amount to much. Besides, I still had my old favorites that I wanted to see keep on winning and his entry into the Cup Series was little more than a media distraction. I have to be honest with you and say that I didn’t think he was going to make it and in his first year, not all that much was said about him other than what often are considered, “honorable mentions” and that was about it, (well… at least from this fan’s view and memory that’s what it was.)

It wasn’t long before my attitude began to change. Like all tried and true NASCAR fans I paid attention to, not only his accomplishments on the track but also, how he represented himself after a race and away from the track. Believe me, nobody is perfect and Jeff Gordon wasn’t either but there was something different about him that began to, and kept on attracting my attention. I still had my old favorites but he was beginning to impress me in many ways and particularly on the track. I made a point to pay attention to what was written about him as his time in the Cup series began to add up and I found that he was quite a talented driver even as young as he was. I knew early on he had won at least 600 races before hitting the Cup Series and I thought that was impressive to say the least.

After his first couple of years in the Cup Series I have to admit I was watching him closely and eventually became one of his biggest fans even though I still held on to some of the ones I had been a fan of for a long time. It was obvious “the Kid” had talent but just his winning races wasn’t the only thing that impressed me. It was the fact he was a real person, he displayed emotion and exhibited his competitive spirit in more than one way, including getting in someone’s face when necessary. On the track he showed what he was capable of and that he had the talent to win and win often. I even remember Dale Earnhardt, Sr. once said after a race, “… that just goes to show “the Kid” can win with anyone as his crew chief,” and I don’t think that meant The Intimidator was intimidated by him but that he did have respect for his talents even though he was young.

The four-time Cup Champ was and is a legend in his own time and represented NASCAR with honor and Class. He never lost sight of those that came before him and made a lasting impact on the sport he loves and he did everything he could to be a good representative of NASCAR as a Champion, a driver, a mentor to drivers coming into the sport and an ambassador for NASCAR Stock Car racing in general. Jeff Gordon will always be a Champion no matter what direction his life takes him from this point forward.

Kyle Bush wasn’t one of my favorite drivers until the last few years. I don’t know what it was about him but I just never really liked him all that much. I don’t think it was because of his age but it could have been because he seemed to me to be a whiner in his early Cup career. It was obvious he had a lot of talent and a lot of natural ability when it came to car control. Even though he was showing moments of exceptional talent, he was also often showing his obvious lack of maturity – from this fan’s view it was like he was trying to show everyone he deserved what he had not yet earned. His first years in the Cup Series he just didn’t impress me and I had concerns as to what kind of a representative of the NASCAR Cup Series he might be if he won a Championship. He was and is very talented and, as I said in the last article, he has become very likeable in many ways.

I noticed a difference in him over the last two or three years in particular and watched his progress throughout this challenging year with great interest. As just an observation from this fan’s view, I think his meeting his wife had a great deal to do with where he is and what he has become over the last couple of years. There is absolutely something to be said about having a good and strong woman beside you, helping you and making you better along the way. Believe me; I know this is true simply because of the blessing and strength my wife of thirty-six years has been to me. She has made me a better person over all and I am thankful for her. Of course, I think his joining Joe Gibbs Racing has had something to do with his success also as well as the person he has and is becoming.

Unlike some of his detractors that have never set foot in a race car or never faced a possible life altering accident or challenge, I have absolutely no problem with the fact that NASCAR allowed him to compete for the Championship this year even though he missed the first eleven races of the season. He had that horrendous accident at Daytona in February and many wondered if he would ever be able to drive again or at least be competitive. He worked hard to get himself back into the race car as quickly as possible. He met all of the criteria they laid down for him to be able to compete by winning three races and working his way into the top thirty in points to qualify for being in the Chase.

Kyle Bush showed great determination to accomplish the necessary things he had to accomplish so he could be a contender in the Chase for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and he drove his heart out to win the race and become the 2015 Champion. Though some don’t think he deserves to be there, this fan is not one of those. He is every bit as much a Champion and winner as anyone that ever was or is in NASCAR. This fan thinks he will make a great Cup Champion and will represent the sport extremely well.

As this 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season draws to a close, we see one era coming to an end. Jeff Gordon is departing the Cup Series with style and class and like the Champion he has been over these twenty- three years. Without a doubt he is destined to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will be remembered as one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history and rightfully so. He has been a great Champion and will be remembered as such for a long time.

The end of one era usually heralds a new one and the possibilities moving forward are vast. There are a lot of great drivers now and this fan knows there are more coming. Although it is unknown which one of the present or future drivers might be the next “great one” there are several waiting in the wings to prove themselves. To name a few would be, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and others. Kyle Bush is one to watch and watch closely in the years ahead and this could just as likely be the beginning of the Kyle Bush era as any of those I just mentioned. Congratulations to Kyle Bush, the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© November 24, 2015 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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