Mike Skinner

Jeff Gordon
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April 21 in NASCAR: Jeff Gordon ties Dale Earnhardt at 76 Cup wins

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April 21, 2007 was a big day for Jeff Gordon.

The four-time Cup Series champion came out on top in a duel with Tony Stewart in the final 19 laps to win the Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

He did so from the pole, which had never been done in the Cup Series at the 1-mile track. It was Gordon’s first win in 22 Phoenix starts, leaving only Miami and Texas as tracks Gordon had yet to conquer.

The victory also ended a 25-race winless streak dating back to the previous July when he won at Chicagoland. Since then Gordon and the No. 24 team had been planning to celebrate a special occasion: tying Dale Earnhardt on the all-time wins list.

The victory gave Gordon 76 wins on the Cup circuit, matching him with his former on-track rival and off-track business partner.

After taking the checkered flag, Gordon’s crew donned white hats in tribute to Earnhardt before one crew member gave Gordon a large No. 3 flag. After doing a burnout, Gordon drove around the track as he hoisted the flag out the window.

“It means the world,” Gordon told Fox in Victory Lane. “Just to get a win at a track that we’d never won at before. I drove my guts out, I’ve never had to drive so hard for a win. … Holding that ‘3’ flag … to honor (Earnhardt) in that way it really means a lot to me. I learned so much from him. To even come close to anything he’d ever done in this sport is amazing to me. We wanted to honor him, we’ve been holding onto that flag for a long time. To get 76 is incredible.”

The race also marked the third event with the new Car of Tomorrow. In those three races, Gordon finished third, second and first.

Also on this date:

1963: After Fred Lorenzen broke an axle on Lap 460, Richard Petty took the lead and went on to win at Martinsville Speedway for his third win on the short track.

1968: David Pearson led the final 10 laps and won at North Wilkesboro after LeeRoy Yarbrough blew an engine while leading. Yarbrough was among 17 drivers who had their engines expire in the race, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.”

1991: Darrell Waltrip led the final 52 laps and beat Dale Earnhardt to win at North Wilkesboro. It had been 19 months and 34 starts since Waltrip’s last win.

1996: Jack Sprague led 151 laps and beat Mike Skinner to win a Truck Series race at Phoenix. It was Sprague’s first of 28 career wins he’d earn through 2007.

2001: Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Mike McLaughlin led the final 10 laps and won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega. It was his first win since 1998 and would be his sixth and final career win.

 

April 16 in NASCAR: Jeff Gordon surges for 2000 Talladega win

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As the 21st Century dawned on NASCAR, three-time Cup Champion Jeff Gordon was going through something he hadn’t really experienced since his rookie year in 1993. A rough patch.

In 2000, his first full season with a crew chief not named Ray Evernham (he was paired with Robbie Loomis), Gordon and the No. 24 team entered the April 16 DieHard 500 at Talladega seeking to end a 13-race winless streak. Gordon also only had one top-five finish in that stretch, finishing fourth in the race before at Martinsville.

He didn’t get off to the best start in Talladega, qualifying 36th.

But Gordon would lead six times in the 188-lap event for a total of 25 laps. He would take the lead for good with six laps left with a pass of Mark Martin that took Gordon to the apron of the track near the entrance to pit road. It’s a move that would be made illegal at superspeedways in the ensuing years.

Gordon beat Mike Skinner, who earned his career-best finish and last top five, and Dale Earnhardt, who was in the midst of winning three of four Talladega races, including his final Cup win later that year. Rounding out the top five were Kenny Irwin Jr., who earned his final top five before his death less than three months later and Jimmy Spencer.

The victory was Gordon’s 50th on the Cup circuit.

“We qualified horrible, but the second we got out there on the race track the DuPont Chevrolet was really, really good,” Gordon told ABC Sports in Victory Lane. “I told these guys if we can just stay out of trouble and be real patient we’ll work our way to the front. And it took a while. … I learned from the best, Earnhardt. I didn’t want to see him come up through there because he’s the toughest guy there is to race with at these places because he’s so good with the air. Learned a lot of things from him and they paid off today.”

Also on this date:

1964: After an early one-car incident put him a lap down in a race at Columbia (S.C.) Speedway, Ned Jarrett roared back to the lead lap, took the lead on Lap 137 and began lapping the field. He beat Marvin Panch by one lap.

1967: Darel Dieringer, driving for Junior Johnson, won at North Wilkesboro after leading all 400 laps from the pole. It was Dieringer’s seventh and final Grand National Series win.

1972: In his first career start for Wood Brothers Racing, David Pearson led 202 of 293 laps from the pole and scored the win at Darlington by one lap over Richard Petty. It was Pearson’s first win in 14 starts and his first speedway win in two seasons.

1989: In the official debut of Goodyear’s radial-ply tires, Dale Earnhardt won at North Wilkesboro over Alan Kulwicki and Mark Martin. The introduction of the radial tires had been aborted during Speedweeks in Daytona following crashes by Earnhardt and Bill Elliott that were blamed on tire failures, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.”

Kyle Busch becomes winningest Truck Series driver with Atlanta victory

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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HAMPTON, Ga. — Kyle Busch overcame a loose wheel to win Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and become the series’ all-time winningest driver.

Busch held off Johnny Sauter on a restart with five laps to go to win. Sauter finished second and was followed by Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt and Ben Rhodes. The victory is Busch’s fifth in the Truck Series at Atlanta.

Busch’s 52nd career series win moved him past NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. on the all-time list. Busch earned the victory in his 146th career Truck start.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but, my aspirations aren’t to go out there and set records,” Busch said. “My aspirations are to go out there and win every single race. I’ve started (990 Cup, Xfinity and Truck) races and I’ve only won 190-something of them. So there have been way more disappointments than thrills of victory. This one is certainly good. It’s big and will be way bigger years down the road once I”m all set and done and maybe the record will hold, who knows?”

Click here for race results

Click here for points report

The victory is the 195th of Busch’s NASCAR career. He has 92 Xfinity victories, 52 Truck wins and 51 Cup victories.

Busch gave up the lead on Lap 54 to pit because of a vibration that the team believed was from a loose lug nut. He restarted 23rd and made his way through the field. Busch reclaimed the lead on Lap 78 and controlled it from that point.

Stage 1 winner: Kyle Busch

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Next: The series will race at 9 p.m. ET on March 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

All-time Truck Series wins

52 – Kyle Busch

51 – Ron Hornaday Jr.

28 – Jack Sprague

28 – Mike Skinner

23 – Johnny Sauter

Brett Moffitt wins Truck race at Miami, takes championship

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Brett Moffitt beat Grant Enfinger by two seconds Friday night to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and the championship.

It was his sixth victory of the season.

Moffitt’s first win of the season came at Atlanta in the season’s second race but even then he was unsure if the team would have the financing to go to every race and be eligible for the playoffs.

“It’s unreal,” Moffitt said on FoxSports 1 from victory lane. “I didn’t know if I was going to get the opportunity to compete for a championship even after I got my first win.

“Everyone pulled together hard here. Back at Chicago (in June) we didn’t know if we were going to make it to the racetrack.”

Chicago was another race won by Moffitt.

Friday night, Enfinger finished second to Moffitt.

Fellow playoff contender Noah Gragson finished third. Stewart Friesen finished fourth with Sheldon Creed rounding out the top five.

MORE: Brett Moffitt seeks to join pantheon of NASCAR ‘stache champions

Moffitt achieved the title in just 36 starts – the fewest since Mike Skinner won the inaugural championship in 1995 in 20 races.

Moffitt’s championship comes with an uncertain future. He announced Thursday that he does not have a contract for next year.

Playoff contender Justin Haley finished eighth.

“We just struggled.” he said. “I don’t know why.”

Former champion Johnny Sauter battled handling problems for most of the race and was not a factor.

“It was awful,” he said. “Just no grip. We laid an egg tonight. I don’t know why.

“When you suck that bad, it’s whatever, you just go home and go what the hell happened? I’ll ask myself that for three months.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

MORE: Click here for complete results.
MORE: Click here for the complete points report.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Jesse Little tied his career best finish of sixth (which he first scored at Iowa this June). … Tyler Dippel finished 15th to score his fourth top 15 in five Truck starts.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Robby Lyons slapped the wall on Lap 78; he finished 29th. … Chris Windom started 10th but hit the wall with a handful of laps remaining to finish 24th. 

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “We were just too tight there (at the end). Needed to make better adjustments on pit road and that’s where it comes down to me,” Noah Gragson told FS1 after the race. “This one is going to hurt for a while.”

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Myatt Snider scored three top fives and eight top 10s on his way to rookie honors. Snider’s best finish this season was runner-up at Talladega. His best unrestricted finish was a third at Martinsville.

NOTABLE: This is the first time since 1999 that the champion won the season finale.

WHAT’S NEXT: Nextera Energy Resources 250 on Feb. 15, 2019 at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR America: $400 a week was enough to make Aric Almirola know he wanted to race

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Climbing through the late model ranks is not glamorous, but no matter how humble the origin, a true racer knows early that is what they want to do for the rest of their life.

For Aric Almirola, it was a $400-a-week paycheck and a percentage of the prize money that set him on the path to becoming a NASCAR Cup driver.

“When I finally got that call to move to North Carolina and go drive for Joe Gibbs – I got paid $400 a week to drive racecars and I got to keep half of whatever I won, driving a late model. … I made $26-$30,000 that year and I was like, ‘Man, this is awesome,’ ” he said on Wednesday’s NASCAR America.

“From that day forward, I was like this is what I want to do forever. I want to make a living. I don’t care how small, how big – I want to work on racecars. I want to drive racecars and so far, it’s worked out.”

MORE: Aric Almirola feels like a “rookie driver again” with Stewart-Haas Racing
MORE: Aric Almirola: Debut with Stewart-Haas has been ‘what I imagined’

While driving for Gibbs, Almirola got the opportunity to participate in a contest to drive a team truck for Dennis Setzer in 2005. Everyone ran 10 laps, came in and told the crew chief what they would like to see changed, then run 25 laps on a fresh set of tires.

“Whoever won this combine was going to get to run four non-companion Truck races,” Almirola said.

He won by having the quickest time, but might also have scored points with the crew chief by not asking for any changes.

In his first Truck race after the combine, Almirola was running in the top five with 40 laps remaining when he got into a wreck with Mike Skinner. He finished 30th in the 36-truck field.

His next outing was much better. Starting 31st at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Almirola finished 10th the following week.

For more, watch the video above.

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