At Daytona, NASCAR's best were off and running. Jeff Gordon (24) won, but the
real race was just starting.
On Lap 184 the leaders, including Gordon (left), were charging hell-for-leather
as all hell broke out behind.
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.
WINNER: Jeff Gordon POLE SITTER: Dale Jarrett
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Jeff Gordon, 185 (+15 over Kurt Busch)
WHAT HAPPENED: A caution on Lap 198 set up a green-white-checker finish, a
two-lap, hold-your-breath sprint for NASCAR's biggest prize. Gordon held off
Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .158 of a second for his 70th career win.
THIS RACE IN 2006: Feb. 19, NBC/TNT
Tragedy for Hendrick
THEY WERE FEASTING on steaks and mahimahi when the room fell quiet. The Daytona
500 was less than 20 hours away, and car owner Rick Hendrick, whose stable of
drivers includes Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, was dining with family and
friends on his 150-foot yacht, which was anchored off Daytona Beach. Outside,
the last blush of sunlight danced over the dark water, signaling the end of the
most difficult off-season Hendrick had endured in 21 years in NASCAR; inside,
Hendrick was watching himself in Victory Lane.
On the big-screen
TV were highlights of Hendrick's most cherished motor sports memory: In July
2001 Hendrick's only son, Ricky, drove to victory in a Craftsman Truck Series
race in Kansas City, Kans. The group watched in silence as Hendrick, on the
monitor, hugged Ricky, then all eyes on the yacht moistened. In October 2004,
Ricky, 24, and nine others--including Hendrick's brother (John), twin nieces
(Kimberly and Jennifer) and close friend ( Randy Dorton)--died in a plane crash
on their way to a race in Martinsville, Va. "My family and friends on that
plane gave their lives for something they believed in," said Hendrick.
"I have to go on for them."
In the 47th
running of the Great American Race the work paid off. Gordon, who took the lead
on Lap 198, charged through the final lap and a half, frantically holding off a
late surge by Kurt Busch to win his third Daytona 500. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
throttled home in third, and Johnson, who acted as Gordon's blocking back for
the last two laps, wound up fifth. "We had raw desire," said Gordon.
"Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports has been motivated to honor those that
were lost. They're looking down and smiling now."
REPRINTED FROM SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Feb. 28, 2005
ON A ROLL
In Vegas, Jimmie Johnson chased his shadow to a ninth-place starting spot, then
came up a winner in the race.
I CAN have a
little fun at the blackjack table tonight. -- JIMMIE JOHNSON after collecting a
$30,000 bonus for taking the Nextel Cup points lead by winning the Las Vegas
2/27 AUTO CLUB
CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY, LOS ANGELES, CALIF.
WINNER: Greg Biffle POLE SITTER: Kyle Busch
CURRENT POINTS LEADER: Kurt Busch, 340 (+5 over Jimmie Johnson)
WHAT HAPPENED: Running fifth on Lap 218 of 250, Biffle chose to stay on the
track when most of the contenders pitted for tires during the last of seven
caution periods. He took the lead from Kurt Busch for good on Lap 228.
THIS RACE IN 2006: Feb. 26, Fox/FX