By Steve Ginsburg
(Reuters) - Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who ranks third in all-time race wins, said Thursday the 2015 season will be his last as a full-time driver.
Gordon, 43, has three Daytona 500 victories and a record five Brickyard 400 wins.
"As a race car driver, much of what I’ve done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions," Gordon said.
"I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason and I've decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship."
Gordon, who won the NASCAR series title in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001, said he does not "foresee a day when I’ll ever step away from racing" and retire.
"I won't use the R-word because I plan to stay extremely busy in the years ahead and there’s always the possibility I'll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans to do that," said Gordon, who has driven for Hendrick Motorsports since November 1992.
Gordon's 92 victories rank third on the all-time NASCAR list behind Hall of Famers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
"I’ll explore opportunities for the next phase of my career, but my primary focus now and throughout 2015 will be my performance in the No. 24 Chevrolet," he said.
"I’m going to pour everything I have into this season and look forward to the challenge of competing for one last championship."
Gordon finished sixth in the NASCAR standings in 2014.
A California native who belies NASCAR's Southern roots, Gordon is credited with bringing a new look to the sport and helping to usher in an unprecedented wave of popularity.
An equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, Gordon said he will "remain heavily involved" in the company for "many years to come."
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)