-- Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon announced Thursday that the 2015 season will be his last as a full-time driver.
"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 in a release. "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.
"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."
Gordon has 92 career Sprint Cup wins and championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001. He has spent his entire 23-year career in the No. 24 car with Hendrick Motorsports.
Gordon is third in career victories, trailing Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). He has three Daytona 500 victories and a record five Brickyard 400 wins.
Gordon made the announcement to the No. 24 team at Hendrick Motorsports' headquarters.
Gordon, 43, suffered through back spasms over the past few seasons and even considered retiring because of the severe pain. Regular treatment has kept the pain mostly in check.
"I don't foresee a day when I'll ever step away from racing. I'm a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I'm passionate about the business and its future success," Gordon said. "As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, I'm a partner with Rick [Hendrick] and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come."
"... Racing has provided a tremendous amount of opportunity that's been extraordinarily rewarding and fulfilling in my life."
Gordon has won on every current NASCAR track with the exception of Kentucky Speedway.
"There's simply no way to quantify Jeff's impact," Hendrick said in a statement. "He's one of the biggest sports stars of a generation, and his contributions to the success and growth of NASCAR are unsurpassed.
"There's been no better ambassador for stock car racing and no greater representation of what a champion should be. I will never be able to properly express the respect and admiration I have for Jeff and how meaningful our relationship is to me. I'm so grateful for everything he's done for our company and my family, and I look forward to many more years together as friends and business partners."
Gordon was sixth in the 2014 Sprint Cup standings, winning four races, finishing in the top-5 on 14 occasions and capturing three pole positions.
"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," Gordon said. "I'm going to pour everything I have into this season and look forward to the challenge of competing for one last championship.
"To everyone at NASCAR, my teammates, sponsors, competitors, friends, family, members of the media and especially our incredible fans, all I can say is thank you."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.