CONCORD, N.C. – official team release by Gray Caldwell — HMS photo —
Sunday will mark a momentous occasion in both the history of Hendrick Motorsports and NASCAR as a whole, as Jeff Gordon makes his final start behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS.
To honor the event, Axalta has provided a special paint scheme for Gordon to drive as he attempts to win a fifth NASCAR Cup Series championship in the final race of his final full-time season.
Gordon won the Eliminator Round Chase race at Martinsville Speedway on Nov. 1 to give himself the opportunity to finish the #DriveForFive. But as Gordon’s career ends on Sunday, the remaining three Hendrick Motorsports cars will also celebrate the close of an iconic era in NASCAR.
In a collaboration that team owner Rick Hendrick announced Tuesday morning on Twitter, Gordon’s teammates — Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — and their partners will work together to run the familiar “Jeff Gordon yellow” for the car numbers on the No. 5, No. 48 and No. 88 Chevrolets as well.
“Jeff Gordon means so much to us here at Hendrick Motorsports,” Hendrick said. “As he drives the No. 24 for the last time this weekend, we wanted to do something special across all of our teams. We’re excited to see the cars united on track this weekend with the ‘Jeff Gordon Yellow’ numbers as a way to honor Jeff and support his run towards a fifth championship.”
Gordon is part-owner of Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet SS, and the four-time champion was instrumental in Johnson’s signing with the Hendrick organization — as well as molding the El Cajon, Calif. driver into a six-time Sprint Cup champion in his own right.
“The fans of the No. 48 car will be so happy to see the return of the yellow numbers, and I know Mr. Hendrick is going to be excited because he will be able to see the cars better with all the numbers being the same (laughs),” Johnson quipped. “On a serious note, it’s just a great tribute to Jeff and all he has done for this organization and even for me personally. If it wasn’t for him, I might not be where I am today. I think it’s going to be really cool-looking for all of the teammates to run the yellow and a fitting tribute to a true champion.”
Kahne grew up on the west coast and was an open-wheel racer in USAC and sprint car competition before his transition to NASCAR, just as Gordon was. The Enumclaw, Wash. driver joined HMS in 2012.
“I’m excited to run the yellow numbers for a lot of reasons,” Kahne admitted. “I want to show my respect for Jeff and what he has accomplished as a driver as well as what he has done for the entire sport. He was my favorite driver growing up. It’s been an honor to be his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports. He’s just been one of those guys that I’ve always really admired and looked up to. What he’s done for open-wheel racers, what he’s done for any racer, NASCAR, people, the fans – he’s just an unbelievable guy.”
“I’m going to miss him as a teammate. I know running his iconic yellow numbers at Homestead will be a great way to honor him and show him my respect as he makes his last start. He will always be one of the greatest drivers of all time. He’s as good as it gets.”
Earnhardt Jr. is the 12-time defending NMPA Most Popular Driver Award winner, who joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. He has won three races in 2015, and circles Gordon as a key figure in his career resurgence with the multi-time championship-winning organization.
“Jeff has done so much for this sport over the years that I personally like to see the respect and appreciation that he has been shown throughout the season, especially as it has ramped up toward the end of the year,” Earnhardt said. “He deserves every bit of it. I think that with everything going on with the Chase and all of the excitement in the sport today, I would just hate for his accomplishments and what he’s meant to the sport to be overshadowed in any way, so I think it’s a great way to tip the cap to him in Homestead with the yellow numbers.”
“I think everyone genuinely has appreciated what he’s lent to the sport as a driver but also Hendrick Motorsports and what he has made of the company. He’s really helped Rick a lot, bring the company along and improve the company to what it is today. He’s been a huge part of that. A lot of people were involved with making Hendrick Motorsports what it is, but Jeff’s had a huge hand in that and I think it’s great for the company and the drivers to acknowledge his last ride.”
CREDIT: Hendrick Motorsports