Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was nearly brought to tears Thursday when he was honored as winner of the prestigious Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR.
The recipient of the award given annually since 1958 is not typically given advance notice. It is awarded by the National Motorsports Press Association in honor of former NASCAR competitors Billy and Bobby Myers.
"Wow. Oh, boy. This is a surprise," said Gordon, who had to stop during his acceptance speech several times to compose himself. "Couldn't somebody have warned me a little bit? Oh my goodness. This is an incredible honor. I've been coming to the banquet for the last 20 years, maybe 19, I guess. I've seen this award go to legends of our sport, those who make a mark and are recognized for their contribution.
"I'm deeply honored, proud of the work I do on and off the track and this is fantastic."
Gordon has 87 career wins and four titles, but his off-track contributions include the Jeff Gordon Foundation that has been helping children battling cancer since 1999. The foundation supports the Jeff Gordon's Children's Hospital in Concord, N.C., and has committed to help children fight cancer in Africa.
He's also teamed with sponsor AARP's Drive to End Hunger program, which brings awareness to hunger among Americans 50 and older.
Gordon was still taken aback almost an hour after accepting the award.
"I was extremely surprised," he said. "I've been coming to this event for a long time and seen the legends and pioneers of this sport get that award and I don't look at myself that way. Plus it was a surprise, and being recognized by your peers for your contributions gets me emotional. It hasn't even sunk in yet, it's huge and I'm still in shock."