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      Passing with flying colors: 19 highlights from Axalta Racing’s 2019

      © 2018 Rusty Jarrett / NKP

      Axalta Racing and its partners closed out the decade with a spectacular year full of race wins, championships and plenty of brilliant new paint schemes that lit up race tracks across the globe.

      Rolex 24 at Daytona

      Ford Chip Ganassi Racing nearly captured its third straight Rolex 24 at Daytona victory, settling for fourth and seventh after some bad luck in brutal weather conditions in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

      Though the FCGR team couldn’t defend their Daytona crown, the season-opening race on the IMSA calendar provided some stunning looks at the historic liveries of the Ford GTs that celebrated IMSA’s 50th anniversary.

      The No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais wore the colors of the Roush Racing Motorcraft Ford Mustang that John Jones, Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Doc Bundy drove to a GTO victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1985.

      The No. 67 of Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon carried a throwback tribute to current race team partner Castrol. The iconic green and red stripes are accented with the Castrol Edge logo and adapted to the Ford GT’s lines. 

      The Rolex 24 marked the first time the Ford CGR Ford GTs sported special liveries, but the team had more throwback looks in store for the 2019 season.

      © Phil Cavali Photography

      Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction

      Jeff Gordon, one of the most celebrated drivers in racing history and a longtime partner of Axalta, officially became a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in February.

      The driver who made the Rainbow Warriors and the Axalta Flames famous was honored alongside fellow Class of 2019 inductees Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Roger Penske, and Jack Roush.

      Gordon, who now hosts Axalta Racing’s Around the Track interview series, earned four Cup Series championships and 93 wins over his iconic career that spanned more than 20 seasons. 

      Daytona 500

      In NASCAR’s season opener at Daytona International Speedway, William Byron became the second-youngest pole winner for the Daytona 500 as Hendrick Motorsports recorded the first 1-2-3-4 qualifying result in the prestigious event. Byron led 44 laps in the race, staying in contention for the win until a late-race incident dropped him back down the field. It was a sign of good things to come for the sophomore driver.

      Australian, Bahrain, Chinese, Azerbaijan, Spanish, Monaco, Canadian and French Grands Prix

      Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport put together an incredible run to start the Formula One™ season. Five straight 1-2 finishes to kick off the 2019 campaign stretched into eight consecutive wins from the Australian Grand Prix in March through the French Grand Prix in June.

      Valtteri Bottas was brilliant to begin the year Down Under, scoring a dominant victory in Melbourne to start a run of six podium finishes in a row. Lewis Hamilton won six of the season’s first eight races, highlighted by a masterful drive on the streets of Monaco to hold on to the lead and honor Niki Lauda.

      Mercedes’ duo scored 15 podiums over the first eight Grands Prix — the start of a remarkable and record-setting season for the Silver Arrows.

      © 2019 Russell LaBounty / NKP

      GEICO 500, Gander RV 400, Digital Ally 400

      Alex Bowman, who came into the 2019 Cup season with a career-best finish of third, tallied three straight runner-up finishes beginning in late April to come ever so close to his first win in NASCAR’s top series in back-to-back-to-back events at Talladega Superspeedway, Dover International Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

      Bowman was the first driver in Cup Series history to finish second in three straight races prior to capturing his first win. But the driver of the No. 88 wouldn’t be denied that inaugural victory for too much longer…

      24 Hours of Le Mans

      Ford designed a special series of “Celebration Liveries” for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing for June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with each of the four factory Ford GTs sporting a livery that celebrated the success of the manufacturer at Le Mans, both in the present day and during the 1960s.

      The 2019 edition of the historic event was the final planned Le Mans for the factory Ford GT program, marking the close of a successful chapter. 

      “It’s definitely bittersweet because we would have loved to gone out with a win in the GTE Pro class here at Le Mans,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “But all four cars finished strongly. … We accomplished a lot with this program in a very short time frame.”

      Grand Prix of the Netherlands

      “It feels like I’m dreaming,” said Maverick Viñales after capturing the first win of the season for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP in June’s Dutch TT. “Being back on the top step of the podium again feels really good and bringing Yamaha back to its winning ways is the most important to me.”

      Viñales would go on to win the Malaysian Grand Prix and tally seven podiums to match his best career finish in the year-end rider standings.

      Camping World 400

      Alex Bowman’s wait for his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory ended at the Camping World 400 in June. After narrowly missing out on wins in three consecutive races earlier in the year, Bowman made a pass for the lead with six laps remaining, unwilling to settle for another runner-up finish.

      “I was just tired of running second,” Bowman said. “It’s all I’ve wanted my whole life. … To be here winning a race in the Cup Series means so much. … I am so happy to get this Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to victory lane and this is one thing I will never forget.”

      Coke Zero Sugar 400

      William Byron ran a special patriotic version of the iconic Axalta flames — dubbed Flames of Independence — for Fourth of July weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Just like the season opener, Byron was positioned for a potential win, but weather shortened the race and forced the No. 24 driver to settle for runner-up.

      The scheme, an immediate fan favorite, returned for the season finale at Homestead.

      Knoxville Nationals

      David Gravel capped a dominating week for Jason Johnson Racing by winning the 59th annual NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals in an Axalta-branded Sprint Car.

      “It just feels amazing,” Gravel said after his victory in August. “I don’t know what else to say. It feels really surreal. It doesn’t feel real at all. I’ve put myself in position a lot of times after prelim nights and never had anything to show for it. … I feel like I’ve always been pretty good here, but no results Saturday night. Obviously, the JJR 41 gets around here good and it shows. It’s just a dream week. I’m numb right now. I don’t even know what is going on.”

      Gravel also won Knoxville’s Capitani Classic and his preliminary race, along with best appearing car and best dressed crew.

      Bojangles’ Southern 500

      Axalta helped bring Tim Richmond’s iconic colors to Alex Bowman’s No. 88 with a retro paint scheme for NASCAR’s annual Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway.

      “Everybody wants to be a little bit like Tim Richmond,” said Bowman at the scheme’s unveiling. “He’s definitely a character. Just hearing stories. There are a lot of people at (Hendrick Motorsports) that worked with him or worked around him, so there’s a lot of stories that get told. It’s pretty interesting. If I was a race fan, that’s who I would have cheered for.”

      IMSA Monterey Grand Prix

      Laguna Seca Raceway was the sight of the very first win for a Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT when Richard Westbrook and Ryan Bricoe claimed victory there in 2016.

      Joey Hand and Dirk Müller made it the site of FCGR’s final win as well with a brilliant drive in September. Hand and Müller’s victory was the third win in four races for the Factory Ford team that ran its final event in October.

      Ford CGR totaled 19 wins and earned 48 podiums during its four-year run in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship.

      © 2019 John K Harrelson / NKP

      Bank of America ROVAL 400

      With a cut-down looming in the NASCAR Playoffs, Alex Bowman came from the rear of the field to score a runner-up finish to secure the final spot in the Round of 12. William Byron came home sixth to advance along with his teammate. It was the second straight season Bowman advanced to the Round of 12, while Byron managed to move on in his first trip to the Cup Series’ postseason. 

      © LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

      Japanese Grand Prix

      Mercedes clinched their sixth consecutive FIA Formula One™ World Constructors’ Championship and, with the chase for the drivers’ crown narrowing to Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, secured a record-setting sixth straight championship double.

      “I think we don’t quite realize yet what an amazing achievement this is, but we’re making history in this sport,” said Bottas after his win at Suzuka helped secure the constructors’ title. “It’s amazing to think that we’ve just done something that’s never been done before – what a great day for all of us!”

      Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix

      Valentino Rossi became the first rider in the 70-year history of motorcycle Grand Prix racing to reach 400 Grand Prix starts. Rossi’s milestone was a chance to celebrate the nine-time champion’s spectacular career that has seen 115 wins, 234 podiums and nine world titles.

      Rossi reflected on his 23 years in the MotoGP World Championship, discussing the changes in the paddock, his relationship with fans, how he has evolved to keep up with the competition and much more.

      © Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG

      Mexican Grand Prix

      One race after securing a record-setting sixth consecutive championship double, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport had reason to celebrate again. Lewis Hamilton’s win in Mexico City marked the 100th victory for Mercedes-Benz in Formula One™ as they became just the fourth constructor to reach the century mark.

      © 2019 Rusty Jarrett / NKP

      First Data 500

      Trying to track down eventual winner Martin Truex Jr., William Byron put together perhaps the best race of his Cup career, spending 142 laps inside the top two, 352 laps in the top five and 499 of the 500 laps inside the top 10, all of which are career highs in a single race. His runner-up finish at Martinsville Speedway matched his result at Daytona in July as a career best as well. 

      © Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG

      United States Grand Prix

      Lewis Hamilton claimed his third straight and sixth career drivers’ crown with a runner-up finish in Austin, Texas.

      “It’s been the hardest year I can remember; it’s been so challenging, going through the ups and downs, so right now I’m just so full of emotion, it’s overwhelming,” Hamilton said after the race. “I feel truly humbled, and really, really grateful to everyone back at the factories, the entire Daimler family and everyone at PETRONAS – everyone who has worked so hard to enable us to do what we do and achieve this. It’s such a privilege and honor to work for this team, to be able to go out there and have the platform to put in performances like today.”

      With his sixth title, Hamilton sits alone with the second-most drivers’ crowns, moving ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio. Michael Schumacher holds the most titles in history with seven.

      While Hamilton was wrapping up another championship, Valtteri Bottas won the United States Grand Prix for his fourth victory of the year to set a new career high as Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport tallied its ninth and final 1-2 finish of the season. 

      The team went on to finish 2019 with a remarkable 15 wins, 32 podiums and nine fastest laps.

      Baja 1000

      Axalta returned to Ensenada, Mexico, for the second consecutive year to take on the unrelenting SCORE Baja 1000. Veteran Casey Mears, who has raced in NASCAR and IndyCar, headlined the driver lineup for the trophy truck painted in Axalta’s Primary Colors scheme. The No. 42 team crossed the line after nearly 22 hours in the desert, securing a 12th-place finish.

      Before the race, Casey Mears sat down with Jeff Gordon for an Around the Track interview as the former teammates discussed their time at Hendrick Motorsports, the most fun they’ve had racing and what it was like growing up in a racing family.

      Bonus! Around the Track with Jeff Gordon

      Jeff Gordon sat down with a number of racing legends this year for Axalta’s Around the Track interview series, getting inside the minds of some of motorsports’ most popular personalities. Jeff talked NASCAR rivalries with Dale Earnhardt Jr.driver surprises with Rick Hendrickcreative outlets with Lewis Hamiltonthe history of the No. 24 with crew chief Chad Knaus and much more.

      Thank you to our partners and fans for making 2019 a successful year…
      Come back to see where 2020 takes us!