THANK YOU JEFF: Nascar legend Jeff Gordon and his daughter Ella walk to the pits before his final race in the sport. Image: AFP / Sean Gardner
Homestead, Florida - Jeff Gordon is getting a lot of love at the end of the rainbow.
Maybe even more than expected.
Hendrick Motorsports team mates Dale Earnhardt Jnr, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne as well as fellow drivers Danica Patrick and Kyle Larson wore Gordon tribute hats before the finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Patrick wore one with old-school "rainbow warriors" colors. Joey Logano posted a picture of him and Gordon on Facebook that showed them sharing a moment when Logano was little.
Logano wrote: "You were my idol growing up. Never did I think I'd race against you for wins. Congrats on a great career Jeff Gordon."
Defending series champion Kevin Harvick got a modern-day keepsake when he stopped by Gordon's No.24 Chevrolet - which received a police escort to pit road and posed for a photo.
Nascar presented Gordon with a tribute video during the pre-race drivers' meeting and then everyone in the room, including drivers, sponsors and dignitaries, gave him a standing ovation.
Nascar vice-chairman Mike Helton said: "Jeff, congratulations on an outstanding career. We thank you for all you've done for Nascar and will do. You're a true champion and a top-shelf guy."
Red carpet treatment
Fans lined a red carpet leading to the meeting and showered Gordon with praise. Gordon responded by high-fiving scores of them.
The 44-year-old Gordon is a four-time series champion who is retiring following the finale. He has won 93 races in 23 full seasons. One more victory would be bigger than the rest.
Gordon is one of four drivers remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Kyle Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jnr. also are vying for the title.
But for Gordon, it would be the ultimate ending to a storied career.
He's trying to remember all the details of his celebratory day, including a visit from racing legend Mario Andretti, three-time Formula 1champion Lewis Hamilton and sports-car ace Scott Pruett. Gordon made sure his colleagues will remember the day, too.
Gordon gave each driver in the finale field an inscribed, carbon-fiber box to commemorate his last race. Gordon recalled Richard Petty doing something similar before the 1992 season finale in Atlanta. Petty gave each driver in that race a "Petty blue" money clip.
Gordon tweeted a picture of the money clip: "Something I've always cherished."
On Saturday, Petty gave Gordon $93 to put in the money clip and told him he had one more dollar ready for him should he win the finale.
Gordon showed plenty of emotion during driver introductions and his final walk to his car. He walked out to a huge roar as UFC fight announcer Bruce Buffer introduced him last among the 43 drivers.
Gordon and daughter Ella held hands across the stage and then down pit road. Waiting at his car were wife Ingrid, son Leo and dozens of family members, friends and crew members.
Gordon hugged, shook hands and posed for pictures with just about all of them. His mom and step-dad were there. So were team owner Rick Hendrick and his wife, Linda, as well as former crew chief Ray Evernham, Hamilton and Andretti.
Fans swarmed the area, trying to get a glimpse of Gordon before his run. Police eventually cleared the area, and Gordon climbed into his car for the final time. As he started to drive away for some warm-up laps, crews saluted Gordon with applause from pit road.
Homestead-Miami Speedway planned its own tribute to Gordon. The track arranged for fans to send Gordon a special message with a card stunt in the grandstands.
The track also had a "Thank You, Jeff" banner for fans to write their well wishes to Gordon.