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Gordon admits career decision looming within a few years

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Points leader Jeff Gordon won another pole on Friday, the 63rd of his career. He hopes to end this season with a fifth championship, which would leave him two shy of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty on NASCAR's all-time list.

The question is, how much longer will he race?

The four-time champion has a lifetime contract with Hendrick Motorsports, but his sponsorship deal with DuPont ends in 2010. Between that and recently becoming a first-time father, he admits there will come a time over the next two years when he has to address his future.

"Those contracts might be up in 2010, but they all want to talk about them in 2009," said Gordon, who will start from the pole Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC) for the seventh time at Martinsville Speedway. "So to me that's going to be a big year.

"We'll just see where I'm at, how things are going, how fatherhood is going, how much tuition is for kindergarten [he laughed]. I don't know. This year I'm just having a blast and enjoying life and racing like I never have, so it hasn't even been a thought."

Gordon thought about it during some lean years between 2003 and 2006, particularly in 2005 when he missed the Chase.

"[Those] were years where I was like, 'This is getting old real quick,'" Gordon said. "I realized just how competitive I truly am, and that I don't like to ride mid-pack or the back of the pack. Nobody does.

"But when you've had the success that we've had, it even makes it tougher because there's a lot of expectations that come along with that. Had we continued down that path, that would have made things end a lot earlier."

Gordon has as many wins -- six -- this season as he had the past two combined. He's coming off consecutive wins at Talladega and Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte to give him a 68-point lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson with five races remaining.

Nobody outside of third-place Clint Bowyer, 78 back, is within 195.

"It's fun again, and that to me, it changes the way I look at things because it tells me that you have to everything lined up, the chemistry has to be there among the team," Gordon said.

Gordon doesn't have a number of years he wants to continue having fun, but seeing how Mark Martin has enjoyed running a scaled-back schedule is in the back of his mind.

Jeff Gordon


When I leave the race track, I think about what we did that day for a short period of time, get right into changing diapers and bottles and being a husband and a dad.

-- Jeff Gordon

"Mark Martin has changed the outlook for many drivers," Gordon said. "I hate that we're even talking this, but I just love racing. I love it and I've been doing for it for so long that I can't ever imagine not doing it.

"So I can see [what Martin is doing] being a possibility. There's definitely some races on the schedule that I would like to stay away from. I won't mention any names, but I could see that as being something that would be really fun and cool."

Martinsville isn't a place Gordon wants to avoid. He's won here seven times and finished second three times, including the spring race. He has nine straight top-10s and 25 overall.

"That's where Mark and I differ," said Gordon, referring to Martin's decision not to come to the half-mile track. "I love Martinsville. It's a track where we hit on some things early in my career. As much as some guys struggle here, it's quite the opposite for me."

But Gordon also wants to leave time for other things

"When I leave the race track, I think about what we did that day for a short period of time, get right into changing diapers and bottles and being a husband and a dad," Gordon said.

"I'm that shallow. My mind just can't work any further ahead than that [he laughed again]. There's just too many things going on in there for me to think any further ahead than that."

David Newton covers auto racing for ESPN.com.