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With the retirement of NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, it’s appropriate to say our goodbyes.

A legend announced it would be his last season participating in his beloved sport, in Janurary. Starting his professional career in 1993, the 23-year veteran decided to give it one more go-around (literally) before calling it quits. 2015 marks the last time you will see Jeff Gordon driving the 24 car around the track.

Now I understand there are mixed opinions regarding the “sport” of NASCAR; how hard is it to turn left a couple hundred times and win a race, right? I’m not here to convince you how great NASCAR is, I’m here to pay respect to one of the all-time greatest of his sport.

It’s appropriate to say our goodbyes.

Over the years, everyone has had that one player to elevate his sport and his team to an elite level. And like all things in life, they eventually come to an end. Baseball and the Yankees had Derek Jeter, who retired this past season. Basketball and the Bulls had Michael Jordan. Football has two greats: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who are nearing the ends of their careers that helped transform the game to what it is today. And NASCAR has Jeff Gordon.

Gordon burst onto the scene in the mid 90s, where legend Richard Petty was wrapping up his career, and star Dale Earnhardt Sr. was in his prime. Both stars said this kid was going to be great one day, and he certainly was.

Starting in 764 consecutive races, Gordon has never missed a race. In those races, he has 79 poles, including two this season already, which leads all active drivers. He has a total of 92 wins, ranking third all-time in NASCAR, including three back-to-back seasons with 10 or more wins (1996-1998).

Gordon changed NASCAR and the racing world. His success and likeable personality not only set an example of winning, but how to win with character. His final season will be one that will certainly be cherished, and he will definitely be missed on the track in the years to come. –Senior Aaron DeWolf

Three time Daytona 500 winner (1997, 1999, 2005) and four time Sprint Cup Champion (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001), the numbers speak for themselves. There is no doubt his greatest, but now we are beginning to ask “How great”? In response to that, we can hear whispers of “The greatest of all-time.”

Gordon not only made a name for himself throughout his career, but he brought the sport of NASCAR from a recreational event to a full scale season. His popularity as a driver not only put NASCAR on the television sets of Americans, but captured the attention of those in Europe as well, where racing is much more popular.

Taking the sport to the big time, Gordon elevated not only his standards, but the standards of the entire racing world, making his contributions to the sport that much more valuable, and that is why his farewell season is so bitter-sweet.

Gordon changed NASCAR and the racing world. His success and likeable personality not only set an example of winning, but how to win with character. His final season will be one that will certainly be cherished, and he will definitely be missed on the track in the years to come.

This writer can be reached via Twitter: @dewolf14.

For more sports, read the March 9 article, Senior shines on field, leaves legacy.