Jeff Gordon announced Thursday that 2015 will be his final season as a full-time driver.

The 43-year-old four-time champion said he reached his decision last summer to end his 23-year Sprint Cup career.

"It's all I ever wanted, to be a race car driver,'' Gordon said. ''And here I've lived this incredible dream and yet that chapter of my life has been fulfilled and it's now time to go to the next step and the next chapter."

He made a point to say he didn't use the word "retirement" because he could still drive again after this season. He specifically mentioned interest in Martinsville Speedway, where he has eight victories. And he didn't rule out racing in the Xfinity Series, Truck Series or in sports cars, particularly at Le Mans. He did say he will not be a participant in the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016.

"Retiring to me means sitting on a beach or sitting on your porch in a rocking chair, drinking your coffee or petting your dog," he said.

Gordon's 92 victories trail only Hall of Fame drivers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).

"Can't imagine being at the track withoutJeffGordon. I don't think I would have ever had my opportunity without Jeff paving the way," said three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.

... Ozz Negri's fast lap in Thursday's qualifying session gave Michael Shank Racing the pole for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

GOLF

Putnam takes Humana lead

Michael Putnam made nine birdies in an 11-hole stretch and finished with a 9-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead in the Humana Challenge. Phil Mickelson had a 71 at La Quinta Country Club in his first event since the Ryder Cup. Mark Wilson, Blake Adams, John Peterson, Francesco Molinari and Scott Pinckney were tied for second.

figure skating

Scimeca, Knierem lead pairs

Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim lead the pairs competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after the short program. They scored 74.01 points, a record for the event, to lead Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier by 5.63.

Scimeca and Knierim, who are engaged to be married, were the runner-ups at their first U.S. Championships together in 2013. They were fourth a year ago with an Olympic berth at stake. But the three teams that finished ahead of them aren't competing this time.

Two-time defending U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir split in the spring. Castelli was in third place Thursday with new partner Mervin Tran. Shnapir, who skated next with DeeDee Leng, was eighth.

Nathan Bartholomay, who earned the Americans' other Olympic spot with Felicia Zhang last year, was fifth with Gretchen Donlan after the short program.

AROUND THE HORN

Skiing: Lindsey Vonn was fastest in a downhill training run in St. Moritz, Switzerland as she pursues a record-extending 64th World Cup victory. The American racer timed 1 minute, 48.26 seconds, 0.64 seconds faster than Johanna Schnarf. ... American freestyle skier Kyle Smaine won the world championship in halfpipe in Kreischberg, Austria, while Virginie Faivre of Switzerland successfully defended the women's title.

Baseball: Pedro Martinez's Hall of Fame plaque will have the cap of the Red Sox and John Smoltz's will have the cap of the Braves. ... Infielder Kelly Johnson agreed to a minor league contract with the Braves. ... Former NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto and two-time All-Star pitcher Brad Penny agreed to minor league contracts with the White Sox.

WNBA: Connecticut forward Chiney Ogwumike underwent microfracture surgery on her right knee. The league's rookie of the year is expected to make a full recovery and typical rehab is six to nine months.

ASSOCIATED PRESS