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Everyone that attended NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas last weekend knew there was going to be a celebration of Jeff Gordon’s career.

What a majority didn’t know was that perhaps the most recognized actor in the world was going to get the evening started.

Gordon and the rest of the crowd were amazed and surprised to see Tom Cruise walk up on stage to introduce the retiring four-time Cup champion and reflect on his career.

"When you are treated to excellence every day for 23 years, that doesn't go away easily,'' Cruise said. “He felt as comfortable discussing a championship with George Bush as breaking down Homestead with Kyle Busch, as at ease with discussing SNL skits with Jimmy Fallon as racing door-to-door with Jimmie Johnson. And with that, he brought joy to millions, used his immense and deserved popularity for the betterment of the world both at home and abroad.

"Transcendence. Few reach it. He did. And although many of us want to say we'll miss you, what we really mean is we thank you."

The two spoke briefly when Gordon came up on stage. He was clearly surprised the mega-star introduced him and he was able to share a little of what the two talked about before he gave his speech.

After the banquet at a media gathering, Gordon said Cruise told him, "I wouldn't miss this for the world. I am so honored and thrilled to be here."

Gordon said he told Cruise: "Man, I wish I was an actor like you right now because I'm getting ready to struggle with this speech I'm about to give."

Gordon handled the moment, like he has so many others in his career, with poise and grace but did have to admit, “to have Tom Cruise here ... I know how tough his schedule is. That messed me up. That got me good."

Gordon said many people have asked him about staying just one more year, but he put the brakes on that thought at the beginning of his speech.

“So will there be another year?” Gordon said. “No, there won't be. I am so ready. I am so content because I'm just so proud of all that I've done. I will say it's been absolutely amazing, and I couldn't have ever imagined how my life would turn out.”

Gordon teared up a few times during his emotional speech and did so particularly when he spoke of the only team owner he has ever had.

"Thank you so much for choosing me as your driver,'' a tearful Gordon said as he looked over at Rick and Linda Hendrick. “I’m so proud to say I drove for one car owner, the best car owner, my entire Sprint career.''

The winner of 93 Cup races also managed to mention Texas Motor Speedway in his remarks after a fan in the audience yelled something during a pause in his speech.

“Is that you, Amy?” Gordon said. “Yes, I knew it was Amy. If any of you have ever been to Texas Motor Speedway and heard somebody screaming and yelling and maybe blew your ear out, you know it's that lady right there.” 

The fans are sure to miss him, but he will be back at the tracks in 2016 serving as a broadcaster for FOX next year.

Gordon, who will move into the role of race analyst for FOX, spoke about the things he wouldn't miss as a driver ranging from the 90-degree daytime practices for a night race, being the last car on old tires and finally he shared, "debris cautions."

“Now irony to all of this is that when I'm in the booth commentating next year for FOX, those are the things I’m going look forward to the most,” he said.

Gordon summed up his certain Hall of Fame career pretty simply, "It's been absolutely amazing. Am I going to miss it? There's no doubt."

And with that he said "thank you,'' and received a lengthy standing ovation much like he has so many times during his career.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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