CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There's the winged sprint car, the midget entry and the Silver Crown machine. The rainbow-colored Chevrolets are on the other side of the room, separated by years and a handful of small tables adorned with No. 24 racing memorabilia. But the car that catches his eye is the white Pontiac stock car. It's the No. 67 and other than the Outback Steakhouse logo across the hood, it's vanilla plain by today's standards. Jeff Gordon , a four-time NASCAR premier series champion, hasn't seen this car in probably two decades or more. But it was one of the few that helped kick-start his stock car racing career. "That's where I got my very first start," Gordon, 44, tells the crowd during Wednesday's opening of "24: A Tribute to Jeff Gordon " at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Racing folks know Jeff Gordon the NASCAR star. They know the Hendrick Motorsports driver that, paired with crew chief Ray Evernham, was a force in the series throughout the 1990s. But before he was champion, before he began piling up wins (he's at 92 and counting), he was Jeff Gordon the former open-wheel racer who wanted to try his hand in stock cars. And the No. 67 was where it all began. "There are some incredible stories that belong to that car," said Gordon. "But most importantly was I sat on the outside front row at Rockingham in that car and the rest is kind of history. That's what led to the phone call from (team owner) Bill Davis which … led to the phone call from Rick Hendrick and here we are today." Impressed with Gordon's efforts during a stint at the Buck Baker Driving School, team owner Hugh Connerty offered the youngster a chance to drive his car in what’s now the XFINITY Series. That took place in 1990. Gordon made three attempts, failing to qualify at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway . In between, at Rockingham, he qualified the car on the outside of the front row. "Unfortunately I have the kind of memory that goes immediately to I remember wrecking on Lap 23," said Gordon. "We actually tried to run at Charlotte first; qualifying got rained out. We were pretty fast. I knew the car had good speed in it. Then we went to Rockingham and I knew it had good speed in it that day, but we weren't anywhere close to thinking we were going to be on the outside front row. Laid down a great lap and I think everyone was surprised. "Even today if you really think about it, if somebody comes along and they're not in one of the top cars or with one of the top teams out there, you've not heard a lot about them, and all of a sudden they wind up on the front row, it's going to draw your attention and you're going to wonder who this person is. "For me I was fortunate that wrecking on Lap 23 didn't take away from being on the front row. I just remember getting some huge phone calls after that. I didn't realize how big it was as the time, I knew I was excited that we were on the front row, but I had no idea what it was going to do for my career." The exhibit, which features nine cars raced by Gordon during his career, is scheduled to run through Jan. 10 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Get to know singer Brett Eldredge as NASCAR.com interviews him rapid-fire style in this edition of ‘43 Questions.’
Carolina Panthers linebacker named honorary pace car driver for Coke 600 CONCORD, N.C. -- Making friends with a member of the NFL's Carolina Panthers on Tuesday wasn't all that easy for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., a diehard fan of the Washington Redskins. The driver's outward allegiance to a rival team wasn't lost on Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis , who rode along with Earnhardt at rapid speed at Charlotte Motor Speedway , shortly after gaining his certification to be the honorary pace car driver for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM). "It's OK. I mean, we take care of the Redskins, like I said earlier," Davis said, fully aware of his team's three straight victories against Washington. "I'm pretty sure he knows." Davis' crossover into the world of NASCAR was a seamless one, as the 10th-year pro was unfazed as a passenger for Earnhardt's five-lap thrill ride. Part of Davis' nonchalance perhaps stemmed from the similar intensity of his day job, delivering hard hits as part of the Panthers defense. "I ran that thing as hard as it'd go," said Earnhardt, who estimated he approached speeds of nearly 175-180 mph in a Richard Petty Driving Experience machine with his No. 88 colors. "I was watching him over there. He wasn't impressed. He was filming the whole thing with his phone, like he was riding down the interstate." The connection between Earnhardt and Davis reaches further than their common ground as participants in adrenaline-fueled sports. Davis' humanitarian efforts earned him recognition as the 2014 recipient of the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, an accolade sponsored by Nationwide -- an Earnhardt sponsor. Those bonds, as well as their mutual affiliation with the Charlotte community, have helped Earnhardt separate his fandom from his personal interactions with Panthers players. "Actually, it's gotten easier," Earnhardt said. "I've got a lot of friends -- real, real close friends -- that are Panthers fans and they make it real hard to pull for the Panthers the way they act and cheer for their team is just … I don't know. Some of my close buddies, they just don't have any class when it comes to the Panthers, especially when they beat the Redskins. I have to hear about it years and years later, and they beat 'em two years ago and I still hear about that. "But I got to get to know (Panthers tight end Greg) Olsen really good, working together with him on some stuff for our charities and he restored my faith in the football team. I really appreciate what they do for the Charlotte community and the area. Obviously, being a business owner in downtown Charlotte with Whisky River, they have a huge influence on our business and our company and the decisions we make, and they're something that we're very proud of. I'll always pull for the Redskins, number one, but I'm definitely warming up to the Panthers after meeting some of the players. They've got some genuine, quality people on their team, and Thomas is one of them." The two athletes exchanged helmets as gifts before their ride-along, but Earnhardt said he hadn't given much thought to making a sports crossover of his own. The 40-year-old driver said he's attended Redskins training camps in the past, but seemed content to limit his football participation to made-for-TV backyard games in Wrangler commercials. "I'm really nervous and shy, so I don't know if I'd want to put myself out there like that," Earnhardt said, noting that he was always too small to suit up in high school. "But just because I'm a fan of a particular sport doesn't mean I think I'm very talented in it at participating. I enjoy the occasional softball game with my buddies or basketball in the gym with my friends. And I love going to the training camp to see the 'Skins and just get an idea of how the team feels and how their morale is and their energy on the field is when they're training, but I don't need to be out there trying to play." Davis' own training exercise Tuesday was slightly less rigorous, but he still earned a thumbs-up from NASCAR official Wayne Auton to lead the 43-car field to the green flag in Sunday's 600-miler, stock-car racing's longest event. In some ways, Davis said, his pace-car duties are nothing new, drawing yet another parallel to Earnhardt's day job. "I'm always ready to perform on Sunday," Davis said. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ty Dillon makes veteran-like moves to stay out of a big crash late.
Taryn Davis lost her husband in battle and founded the American Widow Project.
MORE: Burton discusses throwback scheme and more on "Dirty Air Podcast" When Jeb Burton decided to join the wave of throwback paint schemes for Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway , he didn't have far to look for inspiration. BK Racing announced Tuesday that Burton's BK Racing entry for the 66th running of the Bojangles' Southern 500 will pay tribute to the career of his father, Ward Burton, a two-time winner at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway. But the tradition-rich race will also feature another notable switch: The Ron Devine-owned team also announced Tuesday that it will make an intrateam driver swap starting at Darlington, with Burton taking over the No. 23 Toyota from J.J. Yeley, who will drive the No. 26 Toyota. RELATED: See all the throwback looks for Darlington The change in driving duties puts the younger Burton that much closer numbers-wise to the Bill Davis Racing No. 22 that his father campaigned during his heyday from 1999-2003. The yellow-and-black paint scheme for team sponsor Estes Trucking -- with its similar corporate colors to his father's longtime sponsor Caterpillar -- leans heavily on his family's racing tradition. "I saw all the throwback stuff and Estes has the same colors as Dad had, so I just thought about the idea and I got the PR team to come up with a design," Jeb Burton said. "I saw it and I thought it'd be a cool idea so we went on with it." Ward Burton caught his first glimpse of the car's vintage look ahead of last weekend's race at Bristol Motor Speedway . The resemblance -- both in colors and its similarly styled numbers -- is uncanny. "It's really cool," the 53-year-old Burton said. "We had a lot of success at Darlington, but more importantly I really appreciate Jeb thinking about me." Ward Burton flew the Caterpillar flag for his most prominent wins in NASCAR's premier series, foremost among them the 2002 Daytona 500 . The yellow-and-black look was also front and center for Burton and crew chief Tommy Baldwin Jr. when the Davis -owned team found a sweet spot at Darlington, yielding two victories at the 1.366-mile track, including the 2001 Southern 500. "Tommy and I'd hit a set-up at Darlington. For about three years there, we were on the top of the board whenever we showed up," Burton said. "Rain got us twice, a wreck got us one other time, a lug nut got us another, but we had the car to beat many times. I liked that place ever since I went there." Jeb Burton , 23, hopes the knack for the "Lady in Black" doesn't skip a generation as he prepares for his first Darlington start. His uncle, Jeff Burton , also won twice at Darlington, sweeping the season's two events there in 1999. The younger Burton got his first taste of driving the treacherous egg-shaped oval in an open test for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on June 10. "Darlington is its own animal," Burton said. "We went there and tested, and I struggled a little bit and was running the track a little wrong. Right there at the end of the session, I got behind Joey Logano and learned a lot, followed him and actually kept up with him. I thought that was really good, and our team did their best." BK Racing aims to jump-start its performance with next weekend's driver shakeup. Burton's Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidacy has been a rocky path thus far, with the No. 26 missing seven races and cracking the top 30 just twice this season. He ranks 39th in the driver standings. Yeley has run 23 of 24 in the Sprint Cup Series this season but is eligible for championship points only in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. (The team made a driver switch at Richmond with Burton in the No. 23 instead of Yeley.) The No. 23 team stands 39th in the car owner points; BK's No. 26 sits 44th after Bristol. Patrick Donahue will remain the crew chief on the No. 26 team, while Joe Williams will remain the crew chief on the No. 23 team. It's all been a learning process for Burton, who made the jump to Sprint Cup this year after two solid seasons in the Camping World Truck Series. "Coming into it, I didn't think it'd be as tough as it was because I had somewhat success," Burton said, "but in the Truck Series and the ( XFINITY ) Series, the competition level is high up front, but it's … one through 43 in the Cup Series is the best of the best. The best people, the best drivers, the best teams. You've got to be on it and our guys are working hard as a low-budget team. We're getting better every week."
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner takes you through the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and talks with Joey Logano about winning the lobster trophy at Loudon.
From the contact between Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick to Denny Hamlin’s come from behind win, check out this week's best scanner sounds from the myAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
RELATED: MWR won't field full-time entries in 2016 BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Toyota officials made their first official comments concerning the demise of Michael Waltrip Racing Thursday, citing the automaker's long relationship with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization. "We want to thank everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing for a great partnership and for being a part of our 'freshman class' -- one of the race teams that helped us enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series nine years ago," Ed Laukes, Vice President marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales, USA, said in a statement. " Clint Bowyer has been a valuable member of the Toyota Racing family for the past four years, and we will continue to support him, and the rest of the MWR team through the end of the 2015 season. MORE: Bowyer free to pursue other opportunities for 2016 The two-car organization, which currently fields Toyota Camry entries for drivers Bowyer and David Ragan in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, announced Tuesday that Bowyer would not return for 2016 and the group would not field a full-time team beyond this season. MWR is co-owned by Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip . Its drivers have won seven Sprint Cup Series events with four drivers. Bowyer, who has driven the team's No. 15 entry since 2012, finished a career-best second in the points standings in 2012 and enters this weekend's event at Bristol Motor Speedway 15th in points and looking to secure one of the 16 available spots in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup . Ragan has been with the organization since May of this season, filling in for former driver Brian Vickers , who has been sidelined this season due to health issues. Toyota made the move into Sprint Cup competition in 2007 and MWR, along with Red Bull Racing and Bill Davis Racing, was one of three organizations to field Toyota entries. The automaker moved into what is now the XFINITY Series in '07 as well. It began competing in the Camping World Truck Series in 2004. "We wish everyone associated with the team the best of luck in the future and we look forward to closing out the season focused on competing for a championship," said Laukes. MWR fielded three full-time Sprint Cup Series teams as recently as 2013. But after the group was penalized prior to the start of the '13 Chase for manipulating the outcome of the final regular-season event at Richmond International Raceway, primary sponsor NAPA departed at the end of the year, forcing the group to scale back to two teams. Toyota has three drivers sitting firmly in the Chase entering Brisol in Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards . Kyle Busch , who has four wins, also is poised to make NASCAR's playoffs as long as he can remain in the top 30 in the drivers points standings. He enters Brisol in 29th place, 23 points ahead of 31st-place driver Cole Whitt . MORE: Updated Chase Grid standings
Comparing Earnhardt Jr.'s eight years with each organization Vote: Who will win at Pocono? Stats advance: Dale Jr. attempts to join Allison, Richmond with three in a row at Pocono Editor's note: Last week, Mike Davis , brand director for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., tweeted that the driver was in his eighth year at Hendrick Motorsports after spending eight years at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Hard to believe, but this season marks @DaleJr 's eighth at Hendrick Motorsports , equaling the number of full-time Cup seasons he had at DEI. — Mike Davis (@MikeDavis88) May 26, 2015 Here's a look at how the eight years with the No. 8 and No. 88 compare through the first 13 races of 2007 and 2015.