With this being Jeff Gordon's final season of racing, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has been presented with going-away gifts at a lot of race tracks this year. But for his final appearance at Richmond International Raceway, track officials did something special.
September is national Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and pediatric cancer research is a cause strongly supported by the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation, so the track launched a "Going Gold" initiative to honor Gordon and help the cause.
To that end, track officials painted a Childhood Cancer Awareness ribbon and Jeff's No. 24 on the track walls, and the word "Richmond" was painted gold as well. Track workers and RIR staff wore gold shirts, and the track included a Childhood Cancer Awareness gold ribbon on the Official Pace Car.
Wearing gold t-shirts, 43 childhood cancer warriors from Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU and UVA Children's Hospital, arrived at the track on a school bus at pre-race Saturday to lead fans in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The track also hosted a fund-raiser for the Richmond Children's Hospital Foundation and made donations of toys and DVD players to the hospitals.
RIR President Dennis Bickmeier said Gordon's work with children eclipsed his impressive racing resume.
"His legacy on the track will live forever," said Bickmeier. "I'm not up here to talk about stats or anything related to that. But we wanted to take a moment to recognize Jeff for everything you do off the track and the impact that you're having on kids, young people."
"When I think of heroes, I don't think of race-car drivers and athletes," said Gordon. "I think of kids and families and staff and doctors and researchers that are there, working together as a team to alleviate cancer, find a cure, find a better treatment. I think what you've done here by bringing more attention to it is going to help save lives, so thank you very much."