A visibly emotional Gordon began to cry at the introduction's conclusion

Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty

The annual NASCAR awards Friday night in Las Vegas, which unofficially doubled as the climax of Jeff Gordon‘s farewell tour, added a surprise name to its star-studded list when Tom Cruise walked on stage to introduce the retiring championship racer.

In his two-minute introduction of Gordon, 44, during the Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet, Cruise, 53, sang his praises both on and off the track.

A visibly emotional Gordon began to cry at the introduction’s conclusion, which cited NASCAR CEO Brian France’s one-word description of Gordon.

“Transcendence: A few reach it – he did,” Cruise said. And although many of us want to say, ‘We’ll miss you,’ what we really mean is: ‘We thank you.’ ”

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Joining him on stage, Cruise and Gordon hugged before Gordon gave his own speech, which was no less emotional.

“It’s been absolutely amazing, and I couldn’t have ever imagined how my life would turn out,” Gordon said. “Now here I am, 25 years later, stepping away from one of the most prestigious series in all of motorsports and a fulfilling career that can only truly be described as remarkable.”