"It has been the most amazing experience," Jeff Gordon said. "I am a little disappointed, I'll be honest. I thought going into today's race we had something for them. But I love the effort and we showed them what we are made of right there at the end by climbing our way back up to sixth. I am proud of everything. It is a happy, good day."
Behind him, Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS finished the last race of the season in ninth.
The entire day had a special aura about it, as many of the drivers in the garage, as well as a vast majority of the fans, sported their favorite Jeff Gordon gear. His day was like many others in this farewell season, where competitors and fans wished him the best of luck. His car was surrounded anywhere it went in the garage area and on pit road. As he exited the stage for the final time following driver introductions, it was as if every professional photographer in the world surrounded him. It was surreal.
The track got in on the action as well. Fans sitting in grandstand sections 206 through 254 were be asked to perform two card stunts prior to the Ford EcoBoost 400 Cards were attached to the seats prior to gates opening on Sunday, and card stunt leaders at the base of each section will hold up cue cards when it is time to perform each stunt, and PA announcements as well as cues on Sprint Vision screens will also let fans know when it is time to perform the stunt.
There were two card stunts during the pace laps of the Ford EcoBoost 400. The first will be a special message to Jeff Gordon, and the second will showcase the Championship 4 drivers.
Early on in the race, it seemed as though everyone's wildest dreams were going to come true, as Gordon took the lead. The crowd roared in excitement; a roar so loud it could probably be heard in Key West! Alas, it was not to be, as Kyle Busch went on to win his first championship, perhaps the first of several.
As the tributes to "Wonder Boy" continue to pile up, one thing is certain. The sport will never be the same without Jeff Gordon in the field, and Daytona won't feel right without him in the race. Chase Elliott will soon pilot the No.24, and perhaps one day people will look back on him as another multi-time champion who drove to prominence. Still, there will never be another group like the Rainbow Warriors.
Fans are encouraged to share their photos and memories of Jeff Gordon via social media, using the hashtag #24ever.