Chip Ganassi always up for next racing challenge
SEBRING, Fla. -- Fans practically contorted themselves to get the perfect "selfies" and random close-ups of Chip Ganassi's two Ford GT cars on the grid awaiting Saturday's green flag for the 64th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Dressed in their finest Ford, Chevrolet Corvette and even Ferrari and Porsche T-shirts and hats, the crowd around Ganassi's two red-white-and-blue entries was easily the largest on the starting grid. The curious and adoring fans examined the rear wing, peered into the car's windows and asked crewman to pose for photos. And there were audible bursts of "ohhh and ahhh" in various inflections and languages. Unlike most race events, the fancy sports cars parked in the infield lots didn't belong to the drivers or team executives, but instead to the highly devoted sports car fans who attend the famous Twelve Hours of Sebring dressed in Mark Donohue shirts with prototype car silhouettes on their cap. NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte have competed at Sebring as have Ricky Rudd and Michael Waltrip . While no former NASCAR drivers were entered this weekend, Sprint Cup team owners Ganassi and Rob Kauffman, who competed here with Michael Waltrip in 2012, were on hand to see their Fords compete in what is considered one of the world's greatest races. Ganassi's team won this race in a prototype class car in 2014. "The big thing is to get some distance in them," Ford driver Joey Hand told the crowd Saturday. "But the cars look fast and they are fast." Going the distance is the big challenge. The brand new Ford GT EcoBoosts had a few hiccups in their Rolex 24 debut, but in all fairness, had only turned laps a couple weeks before the race during a massive test session. It was a tricky debut at Daytona for the new cars, but the team is quite confident it has learned from the growing pains and repaired the glitches. They led laps and kept pace at Daytona and Saturday was all about increasing the performance further. "The good thing about it all, and the thing we are pleased about, is the car is showing some pace, it is showing some opportunity, and overall we are happy that we have a fast car and we need to work on reliability,’" Ford Motor Company's executive vice president, Product Development, and chief technical officer, Raj Nair said after Daytona. "That's a lot better than having a slow car that's reliable, but you don't know how to get speed out of it. Overall, this is racing and this is what can happen in racing. If we don't win every race, we are disappointed, but at the same time we know how to fix our issues and we'll be better the next time we come out." The whole program is a major undertaking for Ganassi, who has won Daytona 500 , Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring trophies already. But the quest is as sentimental as it is ambitious. A win at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans is the next great trophy Ganassi desires -- and a victory there would certainly add to what is absolutely already one of the greatest resumes in racing history. "I think it’s obviously something that's been on our radar screen for a couple years," Ganassi said standing alongside his car Saturday, enjoying the large and curious crowd. "It's going to be a challenge and we're hopeful we can put Ford forward the way they want to be represented. We look forward to it. "The greatest events attract the greatest teams and the greatest challenges. That's why we look forward to it. "And it's nice to go over there with an American company. That's pretty cool."
After 50 years, no end in sight for Roger Penske
RELATED: Best quotes from Charlotte Media Tour CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Team Penske kicked off its 50th season Wednesday night with a private function in the Crown Ballroom of the Charlotte Convention Center. Forty-two drivers, all Penske people at one time or another, from the open-wheel, stock car and road racing ranks were among the 1,000 or so expected to be on hand to help team owner Roger Penske celebrate the milestone. The white-haired, soon-to-be 79-year-old Penske has no plans to go gently into the night, however. "I don't know when I'm going to leave the sport. It will probably be pretty abrupt when I do," Penske said during the second day of the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "I'm counting on this legacy will continue on. "My sons and our family love the sport, it's a … common thread through the company so there's no reason not to be involved. If we can sustain the sponsorship and the key people stay with us and will continue to help us we can go on forever and I don't see any reason we can’t do that." In NASCAR, Penske teams have won 147 times, including 93 in the premier series. Brad Keselowski , who along with Joey Logano makes up the organization's Sprint Cup lineup, scored Penske's first NASCAR premier series title in 2012. His organization has won 181 times in IndyCar, a total that includes 16 victories in the Indianapolis 500. "His work ethic is what you would expect from a 25-year-old man and then some," Keselowski said. "There have been countless times where I wake up in the morning, slept longer than (normal) and the first thing that enters my mind is 'Gosh, Roger beat me to work by a long way.' "He motivates me to work harder. He pushes me in direction that I didn't think of before. He has such a deep understanding on so many levels of what it takes to be successful that I find myself constantly trying to emulate him. … "He really just amazes me more than anything else with some of the things he does." In addition to Keselowski and Logano, among those finding NASCAR success with Penske have been Mark Donohue (the organization's first stock-car winner), NASCAR Hall of Fame members Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace, as well as Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch . RELATED: See some of Penske's best drivers through the years His lieutenants ensure that his racing entities run like clockwork and although racing is just one of his many successful business endeavors it has proven to be a crucial part. "Racing has given me the opportunity to compete on a world-wide stage," he said. "It shows execution, it shows we can handle adversity … there's no question that the partnerships that I've been able to generate with the OEMS from my business have been amazing. Without racing I would have never had the connection in the automobile business and that’s really the heart of my company." The focus on the 50th year celebration has generated much interest among those inside the organization and helped fill in a picture for those who have been part of the amazing run. "It seems like I learn a little more every day as we've gone through talking about the … anniversary," Paul Wolfe, crew chief for Keselowski, said. "And being able to be a part of things with Rusty and Rick (Mears) and just all the amazing people that have been able to work and be a part of the history with Penske, I'm just a small part of that. I'm fortunate that I've been able to." Success in the stock car ranks came slowly and Penske left the series briefly, from 1978-79, before returning for two races with Wallace in 1980. The return was short-lived; he left again and didn't return for a decade. With IROC, Can-Am, IndyCar, "and some sports car stuff," Penske said, "our plate was full. And costs were escalating." "Everybody in the world wanted to drive for Roger," Wallace said. "For me to be able to drive the car in 1980, I thought that was my big break and that I had made it." Wallace returned nearly 10 years later, in '91, with much more experience and a championship under his belt. And Penske was ready. The organization hasn't missed a step since. A celebration of five decades covers a lot of ground. But Penske insists the end isn't in sight. "I will be at the races as long as I can stand up," he said. "We're there for one reason and that's to win."
Did you know ...? Team Penske fast facts at win 100
Saturday night's win at Daytona International Speedway by Brad Keselowski was the 100th for Team Penske in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. The historic victory came during a season in which Team Penske is celebrating its 50-year anniversary. The journey to 100 is, of course, filled with numbers and some quirky stats. Here are some interesting tidbits, courtesy of Team Penske: • In two of Team Penske's 100 wins, the winning driver led only one lap. Both times in 2015 with Brad Keselowski at Auto Club Speedway and Joey Logano at Watkins Glen. • Fifteen of Team Penske's 100 wins have come from the pole position. • Brad Keselowski dominated at Richmond International Raceway in 2014, leading 96 percent of the laps. That is the highest percentage of laps led by a winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition for Team Penske. • Team Penske drivers have scored 12 wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, the most wins at a single track for the team. Rusty Wallace leads all Team Penske drivers with seven victories at the .533-mile track. • Both Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch won their first race with Team Penske at Bristol. • The No. 2 for Team Penske has scored 64 victories. Rusty Wallace has 37, Brad Keselowski has 19 and Kurt Busch has eight. • In Team Penske's 100 victories, winning drivers led 12,295 laps en route to Victory Lane. • Rusty Wallace scored 10 victories in 1993, the most wins for a Team Penske driver in a single season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. • In 2014, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano teamed to score 11 victories, the most for Team Penske in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. • Rusty Wallace started 33rd at New Hampshire in 1993, the deepest a Team Penske driver has started and won. • Team Penske's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came in the 1973 Winston Western 500 at Riverside International Raceway with driver Mark Donohue . • In addition to the familiar 2, 12 and 22 numbers for Team Penske, the team also fielded the No. 16 for NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in the 1970s, with Allison scoring three of the car's four victories. • Rusty Wallace and Joey Logano are the only drivers to win three races in a row for Team Penske. Wallace accomplished this twice, in 1993 winning Bristol, North Wilkesboro and Martinsville in succession, and in 1994 winning Dover, Pocono and Michigan. Logano accomplished this in 2015 by winning at Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega in the Round of 12 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. • Forty-nine of the 100 wins came with the winning driver starting within the top five. • Team Penske has scored a Sprint Cup Series victory every year since 1991.
Top 10 road racers who left their mark on NASCAR
Plenty of road racers have made an impact on NASCAR
Stats advance: Analyzing the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400
A stats-based look ahead to the 14th race of the Sprint Cup Series season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 1, 2015) – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Pocono Raceway in Pocono, Pennsylvania going into the Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 on June 7. POCONO-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Two wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.7 · Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best · Driver Rating of 105.9, third-best · 332 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.733 mph, second-fastest · 2,659 Laps in the Top 15 (77.0%), fourth-most · 774 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most Dale Earnhardt Jr . (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) · Two wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 15.3 · Average Running Position of 14.0, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 92.6, ninth-best · 102 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.237 mph, eighth-fastest · 2,286 Laps in the Top 15 (63.3%), eighth-most · 727 Quality Passes, 10th-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 ARRIS Toyota) · Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 15.5 · Driver Rating of 94.2, eighth-best · 176 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.224 mph, ninth-fastest · 2,262 Laps in the Top 15 (62.6%), 10th-most · 712 Quality Passes, 11th-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 AXALTA – PENN STATE Chevrolet) · Six wins, 19 top fives, 31 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 9.9 · Series-best Average Running Position of 9.9 · Driver Rating of 103.5, fourth-best · 169 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · 1,573 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.625 mph, fifth-fastest · Series-high 2,777 Laps in the Top 15 (76.9%) · Series-high 885 Quality Passes Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) · Four wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 11.9 · Average Running Position of 10.8, fourth-best · Series-best Driver Rating of 108.3 · Series-high 437 Fastest Laps Run · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 162.806 mph · 2,543 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3%), sixth-most · 685 Quality Passes, 12th-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser / Jimmy John’s Chevrolet) · Six top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 13.6 · Average Running Position of 13.7, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.9, 11th-best · 1,777 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.159 mph, 10th-fastest · 2,277 Laps in the Top 15 (63.0%), ninth-most · 789 Quality Passes, sixth-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's / Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet) · Three wins, 10 top fives, 17 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 9.9 · Average Running Position of 10.5, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.9, second-best · 273 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · 1,507 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.708 mph, third-fastest · 2,774 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), second-most · 861 Quality Passes, fourth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet) · Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 17.8 · Driver Rating of 92.1, 10th-best · 306 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 1,643 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.436 mph, sixth-fastest · 2,199 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9%), 11th-most · 804 Quality Passes, fifth-most Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) · One win, three top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 13.4 · Driver Rating of 90.8, 12th-best · 96 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet) · One top five, one top 10; one pole · Average finish of 8.0 · Average Running Position of 12.7, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 95.7, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.690 mph, fourth-fastest Ryan Newman (No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet) · One win, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 11.4 · Average Running Position of 11.4, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 95.4, seventh-best · 1,634 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.135 mph, 11th-fastest · 2,689 Laps in the Top 15 (74.4%), third-most · 883 Quality Passes, second-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · Two wins, 12 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 11.8 · Average Running Position of 12.2, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.6, fifth-best · 99 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 1,728 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.319 mph, seventh-fastest · 2,619 Laps in the Top 15 (72.5%), fifth-most · 880 Quality Passes, third-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Pocono Raceway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 28 0 0 6 10 2 13.6 91.9 2 Martin Truex Jr . 18 0 0 2 6 0 15.9 80.4 3 Jimmie Johnson 26 3 3 10 17 1 9.9 106.9 4 Joey Logano 12 2 1 2 4 1 16.6 88.9 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr . 30 1 2 9 13 1 15.3 92.6 6 Brad Keselowski 10 0 1 3 4 0 13.4 90.8 7 Jamie McMurray 24 1 0 0 6 3 19.8 73.1 8 Kasey Kahne 22 2 2 5 8 3 17.8 92.1 9 Jeff Gordon 44 2 6 19 31 5 9.9 103.5 10 Aric Almirola 6 0 0 0 0 1 24.0 67.6 11 Matt Kenseth 30 0 0 3 10 1 16.0 86.7 12 Paul Menard 16 0 0 0 2 1 23.1 64.6 13 Ryan Newman 26 2 1 9 14 2 11.4 95.4 14 Denny Hamlin 18 3 4 9 12 2 11.9 108.3 15 Kurt Busch 27 1 2 11 15 5 14.7 105.9 16 Carl Edwards 20 0 2 5 8 1 15.5 94.2 * – Based on last 20 races at Pocono Raceway . Pocono Raceway Data Season Race #: 14 of 36 (06-07-15) Track Size : 2.5-miles Banking/Turn 1 : 14 degrees Banking/Turn 2 : 8 degrees Banking/Turn 3 : 6 degrees Frontstretch Length : 3,740 feet Backstretch Length : 3,055 feet Shortstretch Length : 1,780 feet Race Length : 160 laps / 400 miles Top 10 Driver Ratings at Pocono Denny Hamlin ............................ 108.3 Jimmie Johnson ........................ 106.9 Kurt Busch ................................ 105.9 Jeff Gordon .............................. 103.5 Tony Stewart ............................... 97.6 Kyle Larson ................................ 95.7 Ryan Newman ............................. 95.4 Carl Edwards .............................. 94.2 Dale Earnhardt Jr ........................ 92.6 Kasey Kahne .............................. 92.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (20 total) among active drivers at Pocono Raceway . Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Denny Hamlin , Toyota 181.415 mph, 49.610 secs., 06-06-14 2014 race winner : Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Chevrolet 139.440 mph, (02:52:07), 06-08-14 Track qualifying record: Kyle Larson , Chevrolet 183.438 mph, 49.610 secs., 08-03-14 Track race record: Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 145.384 mph, (03:26:21), 06-12-11 At Pocono Raceway : History · Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974 – won by Richard Petty , Dodge, 115.593 mph, 08/04/1974. · The 2.5-mile track was repaved during the fall of 2011. Notebook · There have been 74 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway , one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since. · 2012 marked the first season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway . · 322 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway ; 229 in more than one. · Ricky Rudd leads the series in starts at Pocono with 55. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 44 starts. · Buddy Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Pocono in 1974 with a speed of 144.122 mph. · 40 drivers have posted Coors Light poles at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader with five each; Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin lead all active drivers with three each. · Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono. Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive poles at Pocono with three; fall 1984 and both races in 1985. · Two active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono: Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep) and Joey Logano (fall 2011 and spring 2012). · Youngest Pocono pole winner: Joey Logano (08/07/2011 – 21 years, 2 months, 14 days). · Oldest Pocono pole winner: David Pearson (06/10/1984 – 49 years, 5 months, 19 days). · 32 different drivers have won at Pocono Raceway , led by Jeff Gordon with six wins. · Seven drivers have posted consecutive wins at Pocono Raceway , including three consecutive by Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and spring 1983) and Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and spring 1987). · Three of the seven drivers to win consecutive races at Pocono are active: Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep); Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep and 2009 fall and 2010 spring races); Dale Earnhardt Jr . (2014 sweep). · Youngest Pocono winner: Joey Logano (06/10/2012 – 22 years, 0 months, 17 days). · Oldest Pocono winner: Harry Gant (06/17/1990 – 50 years, 5 months, 7 days). · Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Pocono in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 17: Jeff Gordon (six), Tim Richmond (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr . (two), Kasey Kahne (one), Geoff Bodine (one) and Terry Labonte (one) – including the last four consecutively. · Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Pocono; led by Chevrolet with 30 victories; followed by Ford with 21 and Toyota has three. · 15 of the 74 (20.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jimmie Johnson (June, 2013). · The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Pocono Raceway . · 24 of the 74 (32.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the front row: 15 from the pole and nine from second-place. · 52 of the 74 (70.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Five of the 73 (6.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Pocono is 29th, by Carl Edwards in the spring of 2005. · Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Pocono with seven; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six. · Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Pocono with 20; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19. · Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Pocono with 34; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 31. · Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Pocono with a 6.556. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Pocono with a 9.864. · Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are the only two active drivers to win at Pocono in their first appearances. · Matt Kenseth leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono without visiting Victory Lane at 30; followed by Kevin Harvick with 28. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway was the July 23, 2000 race won by Rusty Wallace over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.126 second. · There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Pocono Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): spring of 2005 (200/201); fall of 2005 (200/203); spring of 2010 (200/204). · Six of the 74 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the event on 8/5/2012. · Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway five times; most recently the spring of 2013. · Kyle Larson (8/03/2014) and Casey Mears (8/1/2004) posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Pocono Raceway . · One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Pocono Raceway : Denny Hamlin (06/11/06). · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Pocono with 1,037 laps led in 44 starts. · Two female drivers have competed at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick . Patrick’s average finish in four starts at Pocono is 32.750. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 10 30 8/3/2014 Danica Patrick 16 37 6/8/2014 Danica Patrick 34 35 8/4/2013 Danica Patrick 30 29 6/9/2013 Janet Guthrie 21 28 7/27/1980 Janet Guthrie 22 31 7/30/1978 Janet Guthrie 10 11 7/31/1977 NASCAR in Pennsylvania · There have been 108 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among nine tracks in Pennsylvania. Track Name City NSCS Pocono Raceway Long Pond 74 Langhorne Speedway Langhorne 17 Lincoln Speedway New Oxford 7 Heidelberg Raceway Pittsburgh 4 Reading Fairgrounds Reading 2 Bloomsburg Fairgrounds Bloomsburg 1 New Bradford Speedway Bradford 1 Pine Grove Speedway Shippenville 1 Williams Grove Speedway Mechanicsburg 1 · 141 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Pennsylvania. · Three of the 141 have won in NASCAR’s premiere series. Driver NSCS NNS NCWTS Dick Linder 3 0 0 Jimmy Spencer 2 12 1 Mark Donohue 1 0 0 MILESTONES – Pocono Raceway DRIVER HAS NEEDS MILESTONE Jeff Gordon 774 1 775th Consecutive NSCS Start - Gordon is first on the
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg takes spin with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
RELATED: See Zuckerberg's day at the shop and with Dale Jr. at the track CHARLOTTE, NC -- Mark Zuckerberg sits in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet with a huge grin on his face Tuesday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Facebook co-founder and CEO just finished a 175-plus-mph ride around the 1.5-mile track with Earnhardt Jr. as his driver. And he's impressed. "OK, if this is all we get to do in Charlotte, that will be enough," Zuckerberg says via Facebook Live. "What an amazing experience. … I think there were probably millions of people who would die to do what I just did." He certainly looks the part, dressed in a white helmet and blue NASCAR Racing Experience fire suit, the coloring similar to Earnhardt Jr.'s own ensemble. Zuckerberg has a relaxed, easy demeanor about him as he chats with cameramen, crew members and speedway employees. MORE: Learn about the NASCAR Racing experience But those initial laps with Junior behind the wheel were anything but a Sunday morning jaunt. "Holy s---t!" he says, as Junior veers the No. 88 machine around Turn 2 and up the banking. "All right we're a little close to the wall." "I wanted him to get a sense of the speed and the grip and the G-Forces," Earnhardt says on the ride-along. " … I'm sure it was exhilarating. I couldn't imagine getting into a car with a race car driver having never driven before myself." Zuckerberg's foray into NASCAR began with his desire to learn more about the racing community. He has been traveling around the country throughout the year, visiting different states in hopes of learning about the diverse groups of people that make up America. The NASCAR community is one that intrigued him. "NASCAR and driving and sports in general form the basis of a lot of communities," Zuckerberg says. "You think about not only the community of drivers and the families around them, but NASCAR's probably, I think, the biggest sport in the country that people go to and attend live. "… I have this big belief with Facebook and what we're doing to help people try to build community that we all need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and certainly all the fans -- I think you have three million fans on Facebook who follow Dale Jr. For them, NASCAR's a huge part of their identity and a lot of people pin their hopes on you going out and winning." "They're very supportive," Earnhardt Jr. says of his fans later. But Zuckerberg is privy to Junior Nation: "Well, you have good fans, though," he says with a chuckle. • • • Zuckerberg's quest to learn more about the NASCAR community began earlier that day in a sub-community of racing: The Hendrick Motorsports race shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. He arrived at the Nos. 48/88 shop -- that builds and prepares race cars for Earnahrdt Jr. and reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson -- dressed in a gray hoodie, jeans and Nikes, with an appetite for racing knowledge apparent. Who better to give it to him than No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus? "The crew captain!" Zuckerberg exclaims as he walks into the shop and shakes Knaus' hand. Knaus is giving Zuckerberg a private tour today. The two walk into the shop, and almost immediately Zuckerberg begins asking questions. His brow furrows and there's a "Wow!" often dancing around his mouth. Knaus leads the group from the shop and into a side room where the 7-post machine is testing one of the unpainted cars. Zuckerberg's face lights up when the car starts to rattle and shake. "Super nice guy, shockingly normal," Knaus tells NASCAR.com after the tour. "Very inquisitive. He was definitely curious about what it is that we do and he had a ton of questions. They were actually very good questions. I was happy to hear that. "... He was asking about what we do, how the cars are built, where we take them, the differences between a short track car and a high speed track car," Knaus continues. "He was asking about the tire stagger, how we choreograph our pit stops." Hendrick Motorsports presents Zuckerberg with a personalized team jersey and signed helmet upon the conclusion of the tour. "Now don't wear that when you're driving your car, that's for display purposes only," Knaus jokes. No matter: In a few minutes, he'll get his own racing-ready helmet anyway. • • • After a few laps with Junior, it's time for Zuckerberg to wheel a race car on his own. He had a few practice laps earlier that day, with Dale Jr. coaching him via in-car radio. "You're going to come down the apron, down pit road," Earnhardt said earlier. "Where's that?" Zuckerberg asked. "Where you came from," Junior said with a smile. "Oh, that's a wall, there's nothing good over there," Zuckerberg said cheerfully, piloting the race car around Turn 4 and down pit road. Now, he's relatively prepared, as he climbs into the car for another run. "I kind of showed you the line," Junior coaches. "Down the front straightaway, nice and broad, good smooth arc down the front straightaway. And then on the back straightaway, you get out against that fence, as close as you're comfortable with." "I think probably a little further away than you were," Zuckerberg says. "You got pretty close there." "I know, I was doing that on purpose, we probably wouldn't race that close," Junior says with a grin. Zuckerberg gets going, hitting 5,000 RPMs soon into his run. He hugs the white line, moving toward the high line later. He seems to grow more comfortable as his run continues. "We're just down here hanging out," he says with a smile. "After driving with you, I don't feel that we're pushing it that hard here." "Get a little more aggressive!" Junior urges, as Zuckerberg hits the rev limiter on the car. "I don't think it wants me going faster than 5,000 RPMs," Zuckerberg says. He takes a couple more laps and then comes down pit road, the grin still plastered on his face. And he's worked up an appetite. He asks about a promised dinner of fried chicken, then invites Junior to join him for a post-race meal. • • • Zuckerberg and Earnhardt engage in a conversation after their ride, a plate of fried chicken and a biscuit sitting by Zuckerburg. They talk for a while quietly, away from the cameras and lights from today. It has been a day of immersion for Zuckerberg, whose knowledge about racing has significantly increased since he arrived in North Carolina. But it was just as beneficial for NASCAR, too, as the worlds of racing and ever-growing social media industry merged on a different front. "When you have someone that has that many touch points, that many people that he influences, having him come and experience what NASCAR was all about is a tremendous opportunity for our sport," Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer, told NASCAR.com. "Watching him ride along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the expression on his face and truly to get to experience what it's like to be in car and how fast it is, how loud it is, how much the vibration of the car is. "I think he has a newfound respect and we're trying to get new fans, one fan at a time. Having someone like Mark out here is certainly an opportunity for us to get more than one fan at a time."
Johnson: 'If you're a betting man, I'd put money on Kyle'
Jimmie Johnson discusses how he has three tracks to win at to have victories at every Monster Energy Series track, but expects that Kyle Busch, who only needs to win at one more track, will beat him to that mark .
GarageCam getting ready for Bristol
Host Matthew Dillner takes you inside the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garage at Bristol Motor Speedway
Trackside Live visits Bristol Motor Speedway
Watch as guests Daniel Suarez and Justin Allgaier join the team for Trackside Live at Bristol.
Team Penske's history, rosters for Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano's teams
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