When Jeff Gordon gathered his team before the season began, the nerves he felt with what he had to say possibly were beyond anything expected. Saying that 2015 would be it, would be the final time he would suit up for 36 weeks to compete, had to be a challenge.
But then, having to announce it to the fans that followed his career for over two decades had to be an emotional roller coaster.
What actually happened was a lot of praise, a lot of thanks, and a lot of well wishes for him, Ingrid, Ella and Leo. Fans young and old knew that time was running out on the career of No. 24, and that the time to walk away was approaching. But what Gordon got in return was the fans being grateful for what he accomplished, and how he evolved from the young face that went toe-to-toe with Dale Earnhardt, winning the battle no less, into a veteran driver that the younger generation of drivers grew up idolizing, and in some cases racing against.
All the while, fans began to wonder if Gordon would do something that he only had done one time since the 2001 season.
Fans began asking, hoping, wishing and praying that Gordon, and the entire team at Hendrick, would bring back something that ultimately got recognized just as much as Gordon himself…the car. They wanted the rainbow back. The car that ran from the moment Gordon entered competition in 1992, through the end of 2000 and one surprise appearance as a “retro rainbow” at the 2004 All-Star Race, it was the one fans wanted back.
Yet the big issue with that wish is the sponsor.
DuPont was purchased by Axalta Coatings prior to the 2013 season, meaning when Gordon crossed the finish line at Homestead the prior year, it was his final time running the DuPont name. Ironically enough, it was a race that he won, giving his long-time sponsor one final send-off before the new name came aboard.
Would Axalta allow the scheme since it was ran with the previous sponsor, one that they now had control over.
The announcement that the rainbow was coming back one last time on Tuesday shows that what the fans want, they will get. The effort to make it happen took months of negotiating, and trying to make it so the sponsor was happy, but also the fans. Truth be told, the fans deserve the credit for this finally becoming a reality. Had it not been for the loyal people that remember the success he had behind the wheel of that car, Axalta may not have even considered making the deal to have the paint scheme run one final time.
It was the fans who made this happen, who made this paint scheme become a reality for one final event. Gordon himself was not sure if the rainbow would come back, but seeing the car before his eyes had to be a gratifying feeling.
The fans, they brought the rainbow back. Whether the team will don the old “Rainbow Warrior” pit crew uniforms is yet to be seen, although if the fans push hard enough they could possibly get that as well.