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From The Vault: Jeff Gordon wins first race at Fontana
Relive the first race at Auto Club Speedway that saw Jeff Gordon be the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to go to Victory Lane at the track in 1997.
Five cool Dale Jr. stats in addition to 600 starts
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary As Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares to make start No. 600 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), we thought it'd be fun to find five other interesting stats about Junior, courtesy of RacingReference.com : 170,689 Matt Kenseth (176,372) is the only active driver with more laps than Earnhardt Jr., who ranks 21st on the all-time list with 170,689 laps. Dale Earnhardt Sr. is 15th with 202,288 laps, and Richard Petty is tops with 307,836. Earnhardt Jr. has averaged about 9,000 laps per season, so it's conceivable he could catch his dad in about three to four years. .1752 Junior is third in winning percentage in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at .1752 (17 percent). He's behind only Kyle Busch (.2636) and Mark Martin (.2076). Earnhardt Jr. has 24 wins in 137 career XFINITY Series races, with 13 of those victories coming in 1998 and '99 when he won back-to-back series championships. 94 Earnhardt Jr. has 94 podium finishes (first, second or third place) in the Monster Energy Series, which puts him 25th all-time in this category. He's four behind Matt Kenseth and five back of Kyle Busch. Richard Petty is tops with 461 on a list that reads like the head table lineup at a NASCAR Hall of Fame banquet. 412 Junior has 412 lead-lap finishes in the Monster Energy Series, which puts him in eighth place all-time. That's a testament to his longevity and consistency, and puts him just eight behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. Former teammate Jeff Gordon sits atop this list with 588. 148 Earnhardt Jr. has 148 top-five finishes in the Monster Energy Series, tying him with Kyle Busch for 24th place all-time heading into Auto Club. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are the only active drivers ahead of Junior on this list. Richard Petty is on top of the mountain with 555 top-five finishes. Junior has 26 career Cup wins, but he's been in contention for wins many times. Do your own stats query on RacingReference.com . &<span _rtetemp="spchk" style="background-color: #ffffaa;" _rtespchksugg="Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t">am</span>p;lt;/p&amp;gt;
From The Vault: Harvick edges Gordon at Atlanta in 2001
Relive Kevin Harvick's first win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he beat Jeff Gordon by inches earning his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win.
Jeff Gordon to drive Camaro pace car at Daytona 500
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three-time Daytona 500 winner and four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon will lead the field to the start of Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) behind the wheel of the new 2017 Camaro ZL1 pace car. "Chevrolet and I have a great history at the Daytona 500 and it's an honor to drive the 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1 pace car for the largest, most historic race of the season," Gordon said. Chevrolet will also pace the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Nextera Energy Resources 250 with a 2017 Silverado on Friday evening. A 2017 Camaro SS -- featuring a new Krypton Green exterior color -- will pace the NASCAR XFINITY Series Powershares QQQ 300 on Saturday. "Chevrolet is proud to pace the 'Great American Race' on the high banks of the iconic Daytona International Speedway ," said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers. "The Camaro ZL1 delivers unprecedented levels of technology, refinement and track capability." Gordon has plenty of experience leading the field at Daytona. In addition to winning the Daytona 500 in 1997, 1999 and 2005, he shared the overall win last month at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. All three Chevrolet pace vehicles share graphic theme highlights in silver and black, along with selected accessories and personalization features. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Preview: 'Refuse to Lose' on Jeff Gordon's 1997 Daytona 500
A rare behind-the-scenes look at Jeff Gordon ’s first win in the "Great American Race" with an original film entitled "Refuse to Lose," airing Feb. 23 immediately following the Duel at Daytona on FS1.
Prep work helps pit crews thrive under pressure
Hands in the air and a confused look on the face: It's the last thing a NASCAR pit crew coach wants to see from one of his team members during a key moment of the race. "That's when you know you're in trouble," says Mike Lepp, who is the senior athletic advisor at Joe Gibbs Racing and oversaw the pit crews for the organization as the team's longtime athletic director. In the era of the 10-second pit stop, even the slightest moment of indecision can cost a team the lead ... a win ... or quite possibly the championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Therefore, pit crews go to great lengths to make sure their tools are not only reliable, but also in the right place -- and that they fit comfortably for team members. Ingersoll Rand, the Official Power Tools of NASCAR, follows a similar philosophy when producing durable and reliable tools not only for pit crews but for automotive professionals. "If you're a jackman, you're no different than a football receiver who has a set of gloves," Lepp said. "He's tried hundreds of them, but he's found his favorites." Besides powerful jacks that can get a car off the ground in merely a pump or two, today's pit crews also pay close attention to the pit gun, which is in essence an impact wrench. This is the tool you see tire changers using during races. It's also the tool that has strong roots in the sport with Ingersoll Rand. Remember the Rainbow Warrior pit crews made famous by Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham? They used the Thunder Gun from Ingersoll Rand, and it was calibrated exactly how tire changers liked them -- making a difference in Gordon's championship runs. Having a customized experience like the one Ingersoll Rand helped provide back then is still true today with tire changers trying to shave off precious milliseconds with the ability to feel when something is merely a fraction off from where it should be. "I've probably seen nothing more finicky than a tire changer with the impact wrench," Lepp said. "They like a certain feel. "A golfer is going to change clubs, and he basically tells you it's going to take six months before he's comfortable again. And you go, 'It's a golf club, what's the big deal?' It's a big deal. Whether it's feel or psychological, it's a big deal for some tire changers." Once they have the tools set up to their liking, pit crews store them in the pit box on pit road during a race. Everything has its place and often is labeled for easy-access. In fact, up to four hours before the race, a pit team can be seen near their pit box cleaning tires and putting things in proper order. Every team is different in how they go about their business, but the goal is the same: Be ready to make history, not a mistake. Near the pit box you may catch a glimpse of the crash cart, which is a toolbox for crash repair that's also stored here. What goes into the crash cart has changed, Lepp says, since NASCAR went to a new damaged-vehicle policy for the 2017 season where teams get five minutes on pit road to make repairs to a car that has been damaged in a wreck. Instead of entire nose cones for cars, a crash cart now is heavy on mallets, glue, tape and metal cutters -- in other words, tools a crew can use in a pinch, for one of those pressure-packed moments described earlier. Those who prepare have a better shot at keeping their driver in the race, but those who don't are often left taking themselves -- and their tools -- home early. Find out how Ingersoll Rand's tool line will help you with your automotive projects: http://www.ingersollrandproducts.com/en-us/power-tools.htm l
Auto Club is looking for your yearbook photos for 20th reunion
RELATED: Read more Inside Groove BUY TICKETS: See Auto Club race live Auto Club Speedway has produced so many moments that made a race fan say, "Wow" over its 20 years as a track on the NASCAR circuit -- and its marketing department now has given us another. To celebrate the track's 20th anniversary, the Fontana, California, track has launched a nifty retro campaign in which fans can upload a photo of themselves (preferably a high school yearbook shot) along with a class superlative. This mobile-friendly asset will encourage fans to "Join the Track Reunion" by uploading a past high school photo, prom photo or favorite race weekend photo. Fans have the ability to personalize it by adding their name and "claim to fame" by completing the title "Most Likely To…" In addition, fans will able to enter a contest to win NASCAR Auto Club 400 Terrace Suite Tickets, pre-race pit passes and more. One fan, sporting a No. 24 jacket, said he is the "Most likely to ... wonder where Jeff Gordon is." Another, "Sneaky Pat," (I swear -- not me) said he's "Most Likely to ... sneak into the garage." At least he's living up to his name. But the best part -- the track also somehow managed to get a hold of a few drivers' yearbook photos, and they don't disappoint. Gordon sports quite the mustache and mullett combo, and Carl Edwards had some pretty slick Zack Morris-style hair, while Matt Kenseth's superlative is "Most likely to ... call cops 'pace cars.' " Sounds about right. Join in on the fun at www.acs20reunion.com and be sure to tune into the final leg of #NASCARGoesWest when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series hits the track for the Auto Club 400 on March 26 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
Auto Club Speedway by the numbers
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary RELATED: Full weekend schedule Jimmie Johnson was driving a Superman car and wearing a cape the last time he saw Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' stop there in 2016. It's appropriate since he almost owns the place. Johnson has six wins at Auto Club, spanning a decade and a half. He also has five runner-up finishes, an impressive average finishing place of 6.5 and has led 980 laps around the 2-mile circuit in Fontana, California. Roger Penske has a stake in the place as well, having been one of the architects, alongside Les "Coach" Richter. The track officially opened June 22, 1997, and it's celebrating its 20th anniversary as NASCAR returns to Fontana this weekend for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and XFINITY Series racing. Penske got his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at the track on April 29, 2001 with Rusty Wallace piloting the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Brad Keselowski put Team Penske back in Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway in 2015. Penske's open wheel drivers also have had success at the track. Penske built a fast race track, leading to some stout stats in the speedway's lore: -- A 188.511 mph qualifying speed record set by Denny Hamlin in 2016 -- A 155.012 mph race speed record set by Jeff Gordon in 1997 Digging into the numbers a bit more: -- Hendrick Motorsports has 10 wins, the most of any team -- Ford has 11 wins at the track, and Chevrolet has 13. Kyle Busch has taken home two Auto Club 400 trophies for Toyota in back-to-back races in 2013-14. -- Farthest back in the field a winning driver started: 31st, Matt Kenseth, spring of 2006 -- Pole-sitting winners: Only one, Johnson in 2008 -- The closest margin of victory was 0.144 seconds, as Kevin Harvick edged Johnson in 2011
Gordon vs. Earnhardt: The 1997 Clash
Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham revisit this epic race from Daytona International Speedway in this special director's cut excerpt from 'Refuse to Lose,' airing tonight on FS1.
From The Vault: Gordon wins 1997 Daytona 500
Relive the closing laps of the 1997 Daytona 500, Jeff Gordon's first win in the Great American Race.