Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great weeekend, here are your top headlines for this weekend in racing.

1. NASCAR returns to the flat, one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Cup and Xfinity Series’ first race on a short track in almost three months. In March, the series ran at Martinsville, which despite the disparity in length, does feature some similar qualities to New Hampshire. In that race, Denny Hamlin held off Brad Keselowski to win and was one of three Joe Gibbs Racing cars in the tip five. Teammate Carl Edwards won pole, so Joe Gibbs Racing may be the team to beat.

Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano won the races at New Hampshire last year and were competitive at Martinsville, so expect them to be in the mix as well.

2. IndyCar will have its second straight race on a short track, this time at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway. Last week, Josef Newgarden dominated early and the Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing driver has had some good runs at Iowa in the past, as has Tony Kanaan for Chip Ganassi Racing. Look for Newgarden to be a threat for his series-leading third win and for Kanaan to contend for his first checkered flag of the year.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are some quick thoughts on the weekend in racing.

1. The much-anticipated debut of the new rules package for the Cup Series made its debut in Kentucky Saturday night. Despite a race that was dominated by the teams of Joe Gibbs (including winner Kyle Busch) and Penske racing, who swept the top six, the action was some of the best in the track’s five years of Cup Racing and some of the most competitive on an intermediate track in a while. Even though there can still be some improvements, this weekend was very promising for NASCAR and for the race at Darlington (September 6), where this package will also be used.

2. Sunday’s IndyCar event at the Milwaukee Mile was won in dominating fashion by Sebastian Bourdais, Bourdais’ first win on an oval in nine years and his 34th career(passing Al Unser Jr. for seventh all-time.). The racing on Sunday was very good, but as is the case for many events with IndyCar, there was another concern.

3. Although Milwaukee is the oldest operating track in the world and has been operated very successfully by Andretti Sports Marketing the past few years, drawing a big crowd does seem to be a challenge. Over the past three years, the track has seen its race fall on three different dates and this year fell during the late afternoon. Having a late afternoon start for a Saturday race would be fine.

The series and track promoters do need to consider that many fans work the next day. Having a race end after 7:00 local time with work looming the next day may just be asking a little too much. If the series does return (rumor has it Road America may be coming back and potentially replace Milwaukee). Although I would like to see both, IndyCar and the track’s staff need to fix the kinks in order for the Milwaukee Mile to succeed in 2016 and beyond.

Have a great week and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Another jam-packed weekend of racing is on tap, so here’s a look at the headlines.

1. The Cup Series heads into Kentucky tomorrow night with a new, lower downforce aero package set to debut. Among the changes are a shorter spoiler (down from 6 inches to 3.5), smaller overhang for the front splitter and a 25-inch radiator pan (was 38 inches), which will take away about 1000 pounds of downforce. The major concern for NASCAR and the race teams is that rain has plagued on-track activities this week.

After having Wednesday’s session and a huge chunk of the weekend’s track time cancelled because of the weather, Saturday’s race will be even tougher. With three additional races set to feature the new aero package, tomorrow night will be a huge barometer to see if the changes improve competition.

2. Last night in the Truck Series, David Gilliland collided with Ben Kennedy. The contact sent Kennedy into the wall, even hitting the catch fence and riding along the SAFER barrier. Thankfully, Kennedy walked away from the crash. After two crashes that saw vehicles into the catch fence, it is important to note just how much all the safety precautions have helped the drivers, crews and fans stay safer. However, having these types of crashes this close together is something NASCAR needs to look into trying to remedy as best they can.

3. Following a week off, the IndyCar Series will return to the Milwaukee Mile. Although this is the 12th race of the season, it is the first on a short oval and therefore,the first with the new aero kits. There has not been much in the way of testing and practice on short ovals with the new body kits so predicting how the race will go may be tough.

One driver to watch out for is Will Power. The reigning series champion won last year at the Mile and was competitive last year. This year’s racing on ovals has been exciting, now the hope for many is that the competition will transfer to the short ovals.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top 10 Tuesday: IndyCar at the Milwaukee Mile

Spencer Neff

Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

After NASCAR returned to one of their premier venues at Daytona last weekend, the IndyCar Series will do the same this weekend. The series is set to hit the famed Milwaukee Mile on Sunday. To celebrate the event at the world’s oldest operating motor speedway, here is a look at the most memorable IndyCar moments in the track’s 112-year history.

10. 1983-Sneva’s Controversial Win: Two weeks after his winning the Indianapolis 500, Tom Sneva became the seventh driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and the race at Milwaukee.

After crossing the finish line 10 seconds ahead of Al Unser, Sneva’s car was found to have an improper ground clearance on the side mount skirts. The win was given to Unser, but was awarded back to Sneva upon appeal two weeks later. 1983 was also the first time since 1946 Milwaukee hosted just a single IndyCar event. The track has done so ever year since, except when the race was cancelled in 2010.

9. 2004-Hunter-Reay Dominates: On a cold night in June, Ryan Hunter-Reay started on pole and led all 250 laps en route to a dominant victor at Milwaukee. Eight years later, Hunter-Reay would win again at the mile, this time during the day and in less dominating fashion, leading 84 of 225 laps and giving Chevrolet their first Milwaukee win since 1991.

8. 1993-Mansell’s First Oval Win: In 1993, IndyCar rookie and reigning Formula Champion Nigel Mansell had already proven he could translate his road and street course prowess to IndyCar, winning in his first start in the series at the Surfers Paradise circuit in Australia.

The question of how Mansell would do on a short oval remained. Mansell missed the race at Phoenix in April after a practice crash, the only short oval on the schedule before Milwaukee. Mansell started seventh and passed polesitter Raul Boesel to win his first oval race. Mansell’s last three wins in 1993 were all on on ovals (two short ovals), on his way to the 1993 IndyCar Championship.

7. 2003-Night Racing Debut: For the 2003 ChampCar Series race at Milwaukee, the cars would race at night. Temporary lighting was brought in for the race and for the next three races ChampCar ran their. Michel Jourdain Jr. won his first career race that night after eight years in open-wheel racing.

6. 1990- Little Al’s First Oval Win: By the time 1990 rolled around, Al Unser Jr. had been racing in the IndyCar Series for eight seasons and racked up 10 victories. None of them had been on an oval until the 1990 race at Milwaukee. With just two laps to go, Michael Andretti ran out of fuel and Unser Jr. drove by to take the win. Unser Jr. would win at the Milwaukee Mile just once more in 1994.

5. 1991- Andrettis Dominate: The Milwaukee Mile has been a special place for the Andretti Family, including Michael, who now runs the event with Andretti Sports Marketing. One of Michael’s biggest days as a driver came in 1991. After dominating the race, Michael led his cousin John and father Mario to the finish line in the first 1-2-3 for members of the same family. Michael’s brother Jeff finished 11th that day.

4. 1981-Mosley Storms from 25th to First: Driving for Dan Gurney, Mike Mosley started 25th in the 26-car field. Mosley worked his way through the field and won the race, making it the farthest back any winning driver has started in an IndyCar race. Mosley’s win also marked the final time a “Stock Block engine” won.

3. 1966-Mario Wins His First Pavement Race: Like many drivers of his era, Mario Andretti’s career began on the dirt tracks of America. In his sophomore season, Andretti finally proved himself on the paved tracks by winning at the Milwaukee Mile. For the next 28 years, Mario would go on to win numerous races across several racing disciplines and cement himself as one of the greatest drivers ever.

2. 1964-Foyt Closes Out Roadster Era: One year after Jimmy Clark began the front-engine era, AJ Foyt effectively closed it out. Foyt dominated and won, but the roadster would make an unexpected comeback a year later. In 1965, Foyt would tow his front-engine backup car from Springfield to Milwaukee. in that race, Foyt led 16 laps and finished second to Gordon Johncock, who won his first career race. The front-engine cars would race at Milwaukee until 1970, but would not score a single victory.

1. 1963-Clark Wins in a Rear-Engine Car: The early 1960s were a huge transitional period for the open-wheel cars. Among the many changes was the shift from front to rear-engine cars. In 1963, Jimmy Clark proved that rear-engines cars could compete. Clark took the victory at Milwaukee and so started the rear-engine era that has continued to this day.

Have a great day and see you soon.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend.

1. In what was one of the scariest wrecks I have seen, Denny Hamlin was clipped by Kevin Harvick as the two ran third and fourth to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson at Daytona. Hamlin’s spin triggered a melee after the finish that wrecked several cars and sent Austin Dillon barrel rolling into the catch fence, landing upside down and then run into by Brad Keselowski.

Despite several race cars with heavy damage (including an engine ripped away from the car of Dillon), all drivers involved walked away. NBC reported that three spectators are being treated in the grandstands with minor injuries, so good thoughts are being sent their way.

A big round of applause to all the safety workers and the rival crew members who checked on the well-being of Austin Dillon in the wake of the. Unfortunately, these big wrecks are a byproduct of the exciting racing fans clamor for, but it is nice to see the sport still has safety as a paramount concern and people are looking out for their competitors’ safety.

2. Huge props go to NBC as well, who returned to NASCAR after a nine-year absence. NBC’s coverage during the race was solid, looking forward to seeing what they will bring to the table throughout the rest of the season.

3. Blocking became a huge topic of discussion after Saturday night’s Xfinity race at Daytona, after Brian Scott triggered a multi-car crash in the late stages of the race. Although I do not think that rules against blocking would be good for competition, I think that drivers do need to exercise some better judgement when doing so. Asking these drivers to be less aggressive is not in their nature, there are some risks that are not justified and need to be limited if and when possible.

4. Overseas, Lewis Hamilton took the pole and dominated to win his home British Grand Prix at Silverstone, breaking teammate Nico Rosberg’s streak of three straight wins in Europe and extending his points lead to 17. Unless Rosberg can string together a few more wins, Hamilton is already well on his way to a second straight and third career championship.

5. In NHRA, history was made in Norwalk when Karen Stoffer and Angelle Sampey met in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final. It marked just the third time in history and first since the two met in Reading 13 years ago, that two women faced off in the final of a professional class. This time, Stoffer prevailed after Sampey red lighted.

Other winners included Top Fuel’s Doug Kalitta, Funny Car’s Jack Beckman and Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson. With the average points lead among the four pro classes at 39 points, the action is beginning to heat up with the Countdown set to begin in just over two months at Charlotte.

Have a great week and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

A lot of exciting racing is set for this weekend, so here’s a look at some of the headlines.

1. NASCAR is back in Daytona for its annual 4th of July races at Daytona. However, the Xfinity and Cup will be running on Saturday and Sunday night, instead of their usual Friday and Saturday night dates, as NBC broadcasts the sport for the first time in nine years. Looking forward to their return, as well as seeing what the racing will be like.

The Gen-6 Cup Series car has not produced the same exciting racing fans had been accustomed to with its predecessors. At the Daytona 500 in February, cars raced three-wide for several laps. Here’s hoping we can have the same exciting racing on Sunday night.

2. Formula 1 returns to action this weekend, as the series travels to the Silverstone circuit for the British Grand Prix.

Although Lewis Hamilton dominated the early part of the season, Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg has taken over as the series has begun its European leg of the schedule, winning every round contested on the continent this year.

Rosberg has led the first practice sessions this weekend, do not be surprised if he wins and closes the 10-point gap between he and Hamilton.

3. The NHRA returns to action as well, with all 4 series racing at Norwalk. Halfway through the season, all four professional series have close competitions, with the largest points differential between 1st and 2nd at 87 in Funny Car. Last year, track records were set in each category.

4. Although not in action this weekend, IndyCar has made several headlines following the race in California.

Despite a series-record 80 lead changes, opinions over the event were severely divided over the race, including some drivers who were upset that pack racing had returned. Following the complaints, IndyCar President Mark Miles voiced his displeasure with drivers making disparaging remarks.

I completely agree with Miles’ frustration and a sport that is struggling to find more fans like INDYCAR can not afford to have drivers being overly critical of the product.

Regardless, as I discussed last week, I think any time drivers have concerns over the on-track product, they need to be met with the utmost sincerity. Hopefully the series can figure this issues out before the next superspeedway race at Pocono in August and it will not take away from the rest of the season.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July weekend. Thank You to all our service members and their families, both past and present. Your sacrifices do not go without our sincerest appreciation.

Top 10 Tuesday: July Daytona Moments

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

This weekend, NASCAR returns to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400. For the first time since 1997, the Independence Day classic at the 2.5-mile oval will not be contested on Saturday night, running instead on Sunday night.

Additionally, NBC returns to broadcast its first NASCAR race since the 2006 finale at Homestead. In celebration of the famed race, here are the top moments throughout its 56-year history.

10. 1997- Andretti Wins for Yarborough: The surnames are two of the most recognizable in all of motorsports.

On July 5, John Andretti led 113 laps en route to a dominating victory in the Pepsi 400, edging Terry Labonte on a one-lap sprint to the finish by .029 seconds, at the time the closest finish at Daytona.

The win was the first of two in the Cup Series for Andretti and the lone win for Cale Yarborough (1967 and 1968 race winner) as an owner.

9. 1985- Sacks Scores his Lone Victory: Driving a “research and development” car prepared by Crew Chief Gary Nelson for DiGard Racing, Greg Sacks started the day ninth.

Sacks powered his way to the front and held off Bill Elliott by 23.5 seconds to win his first and only Cup Series race. The legality of the winning car came into question, but nothing was ever proven and the win stood.

8. 1963-The “Firecracker 400” is born: For the first four years, NASCAR’s July event at Daytona was a 250-miler. In 1963, that all changed, as the event was extended to 400 miles.

Fireball Roberts won in a race that boasted 39 lead changes for his second straight and third overall win in the event. It would be one of the last wins for the legendary Roberts, who passed away a year later from injuries sustained in a crash at Charlotte.

7. 1990-The Intimidator Conquers Daytona: The struggles that the late Dale Earnhardt saw at Daytona have been well-documented. One of his most infamous heartbreaks at the track came at the 1990 Daytona 500.

With less than half a lap to go, Earnhardt cut a tire and relinquished the win to Derrike Cope. In the summer, luck would be on Earnhardt’s side.

After leading for 127 of 160 laps, Earnhardt held off Alan Kulwicki by 1.47 seconds to win his first of two July races at Daytona.

On the first lap of the race, Greg Sacks triggered a 23-car crash that is regarded as the first “Big One” at a restrictor plate track.

6. 1988-July 4th Streak Ends: For the first 29 years, the July event at Daytona fell on Independence Day. For 1988, the event would be run on a Saturday, but the date would be July 2.

In the race, Bill Elliott beat Rick Wilson by 3 feet after starting 38th. The race also marked the first time in 15 years that restrictor plates would be used in the event. In the past 26 years, the event has only been run on July 4th twice.

5. 1972-1974: Pearson Wins Three Straight: Mired among the long list of accomplishments in his racing career are three straight wins for “The Silver Fox” in the July race at Daytona.

Capping off the streak in 1974, Pearson let Richard Petty slip in front of him on the last lap, but used the draft from Petty’s car to sling shot past him for the win.

Even more impressive is that Pearson remains the only driver to win three straight years in either of the Cup Series races at Daytona. The race also featured 45 lead changes, a record that would stand until 2010 (47 lead changes).

4. 2007-McMurray Edges Busch: Earlier in the day, Kyle Busch had won the rain-delayed Busch Series event at Daytona and was looking to become the first driver to win a Cup and a Busch Series race on the same day.

Jamie McMurray, who had not won in 166 starts, thwarted those plans though, as he drove past Busch at the start/finish line on the last lap to win by .005 seconds, the closest finish in the speedway’s history. The race would also serve as the last time the Generation 4 car would be used at a restrictor plate track.

3. 1998-Night Racing Begins at Daytona: The 1998 edition of the July classic was scheduled for July 4th night, however the first night race at the Florida track would be delayed by wildfires. On October 17, history was finally made and stock cars ran under the lights at Daytona.

After a 37-minute red flag for rain with five laps to go, Jeff Gordon held on for his 11th of 13 victories (tied for a modern-era record) in 1998 and his second of three in the July Daytona race.

2. 2001- Dale Jr. Wins his first at Daytona- 2001 had been a trying season for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and NASCAR to say the least. His father, Dale Sr., was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500, while DEI’s Michael Waltrip won and the younger Earnhardt ran second.

On the final restart in the July event, Earnhardt started sixth but worked his way to the front and held off Waltrip for his first of three wins and the second straight DEI 1-2 at Daytona.

1. 1984- “The King” gets his 200th win- Perhaps the most memorable moment in NASCAR history, the day started with President Ronald Reagan giving the command to start engines on Air Force One before flying to the track. Eventually, President Reagan made his way to Daytona. On the track, Richard Petty went into the race with 199 career wins.

Petty would battle for the win with Cale Yarborough, who led 71 laps that day and nabbed Yarborough as the two took the caution flag with two laps remaining following Doug Heveron’s, flip. After the race, Reagan joined Petty to celebrate what would be the final win of his illustrious career.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff
Twitter:@NeffOnSports11
Hope everyone had a great weekend. Here are my thoughts on this weekend’s festivities.

1. Saturday’s IndyCar race at Fontana was one of the most spectacular races in series history. Graham Rahal picked up his first win since 2008 and engine/aero kit manufacturer Honda’s third of the season in a race that featured a record 80 lead changes.

Despite the excitement, many drivers voiced concerns about the racing. With drivers wheel-to-wheel at nearly 220 miles per hour, accidents became a concern. Particularly one crash on the last lap, where Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay collided, sending Briscoe airborne. Thankfully, neither was injured.

However, the concern still remained, particularly with the crash at Las Vegas in 2011 that claimed the life of Dan Wheldon still in recent memory.

Although I do think that any concerns voiced by the drivers need to be treated with the highest regard, from what I saw (albeit, on TV) the racing seemed very clean until the race drew near its conclusion and Fontana is much wider than other superspeedways, such as Texas and Indianapolis.

Luckily, the series only has one superspeedway left on this year’s schedule, when they visit Pocono on August 23. So, whatever issues may need to be worked out should be in two months’ time. Until then, here’s hoping the series can get more fans in the seats at each of the remaining tracks.

2. Today, the Cup Series ran on its first of two road courses at Sonoma. After Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson dominated much of the race, Kyle Busch took advantage of fresh tires on a late restart to win his first Cup Series race since breaking his leg and ankle in February at Daytona. Kyle’s brother Kurt finished 2nd, the first 1-2 for the siblings.

Currently, Kyle is 136 points out of 30th in points, needing an average finish of 14th to be in the top 30 after 26 races. Getting and staying there will be tough for Busch, although he may be one of just a handful of drivers capable of pulling it off.

Having Busch in the Chase does undoubtedly add excitement and the injury of course could be argued as a mistake on NASCAR’s part, as CEO Brian France has alluded to. Regardless, I don’t think having a driver miss that many races and be elligible for the championship is the best process.

In some ways it takes away from other teams and drivers who have competed all season. Had Busch missed only a handful of races (like his brother Kurt, who was suspended for three races), I may be more in favor of his inclusion in the playoffs.

Overall, I think that this is an issues NASCAR needs to look at soon. I do applaud that they have added medical waivers and that they have issued some limits (such as the ones for Kyle Busch).

I would like to see them consider a no-exceptions rule that a driver must compete in a minimum percentage of regular season races (e.g. 80-85% of the 26, so 21-23) in order to maintain postseason eligibility.

Have a Great Week

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Verizon IndyCar Series are back in action this weekend. Here’s my take on some of the top stories heading into the weekend.

1. With the first of two Sprint Cup road course races on tap this weekend in Sonoma , one of the big talking points has been the debate of adding a road course to the Chase. NASCAR has argued that the current lineup of Chase tracks represents the makeup of the schedule. I would agree with that, but I do think that the current Chase schedule could use a rejuvenation. Adding some more variety to the final 10 races could help add to a playoff system has seen some major shakeups in the past few years.

If NASCAR is to add a road course to the schedule, my personal vote would be for Watkins Glen. Over the past few years, The Glen has seen several exciting finishes. Although Sonoma does offer perhaps a more optimal location and has had great racing, I think the Glen has delivered quality racing more consistently. Though fans remember the crash-filled event in 2011 at Sonoma fondly, the racing seems to not have lived up to that quality since then.

2. This weekend, the IndyCar Series will also be in the Golden State, as they head to Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. Because of the high temperatures expecting (last three races have been at night in September, October and August respectively) and this race will be run during a hot June day, downforce levels have been altered with some wing angle changes.

IndyCar estimates that about 300 pounds of downforce will be added to the cars from what was seen at Texas. Although this is the third oval of the year, all three are very different. Nonetheless, let’s hope that we can see a repeat of some the excitement from earlier this year and maybe Honda can give Chevrolet a run for their money.

Have a Great Weekend

Top 10 Tuesday: California Drivers

Spencer Neff
Twitter: @NeffOnSports11

With the IndyCar Series in Fontana and the Sprint Cup Series in Sonoma this weekend, here is a look at the best drivers who call the Golden State home.

10. Ron Hornaday Jr.- The Palmdale driver rounds out the list. Hornaday has been a dominant force in the 20-year history of the Truck Series, winning the championship a record four times and accumulating a record 50 career wins. In addition to his outstanding success in the Truck Series, Hornaday added four victories in what is now the Xfinity Series.

9. Robby Gordon- Like many other drivers who call California home, Gordon, (who hails from Cerritos, Ca.) got his start off-road racing, where he won eight championships and scored three victories in the famed Baja 1000.
In the early 90s, Gordon switched his focus to NASCAR and open wheel, winning multiple times in the Cup and (current) Xfinity series, as well as IndyCar. Right now, Gordon has returned to his roots, starting the Stadium Super Truck Series, which has become a huge success and even landed a spot in the X Games.

8. Gary Scelzi- The second Fresno-born driver and third drag racer on the list, Scelzi began in the sport in 1997 after a tragic accident in the 1996 US Nationals claimed the life of Blaine Johnson. Scelzi went onto win three of the next four championships in Top Fuel. In 2001, Scelzi switched over to Funny Car and earned the 2005 series championship. Scelzi ended his career with 37 National Event wins in addition to the four championships.

7. Kevin Harvick- After winning his first career Cup Series championship last year, the Bakersfield-born driver has etched his place as one of NASCAR’s dominating drivers. In addition to his title, Harvick has also notched 30 Cup Series wins, two titles in what is now the Xfinity series and is one of 26 drivers to amass wins in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions (Cup, Xfinity and Truck).

6. Don Prudhomme- A driver hailing from San Fernando, Prudhomme’s resume is highlighted by 49 National Event wins (35 Funny Car, 14 Top Fuel) and he is also one of three drivers (Force and Kenny Bernstein) to win four consecutive championships in Funny Car since 1974, a feat he accomplished from 1975 to 1978.

5. Bill Vukovich- One of the biggest names from Indy’s “Roadster Era”, Vukovich got his start racing midget cars, where he won three championships from 1945-1946. Vukovich’s greatest success came at the Indianapolis 500, where dominated the event, leading the most laps every year from 1952 to 1954, winning in 1953 and 1954. Vukovich’s bid for a record three straight 500 titles came to a tragic end, when he was killed in a crash while leading in 1955.

4. Jimmie Johnson- Similar to Rick Mears, Johnson (a native of El Cajon) got his start in off-road racing. After a quiet start to his NASCAR career, he was signed by Hendrick Motorsports and began his Cup Series career in 2002. Since then, Johnson has amassed 72 wins and six championships (including a record five straight from 2006-2010), becoming the sport’s greatest dominator since teammate and fellow Californian Jeff Gordon.

3. John Force- The Bell Gardens-born driver’s name has become intertwined with drag racing over the last four decades. With 16 Funny Car titles and 143 National Event wins, Force has been one of the dominant figures in the sport and has helped bring the NHRA into the mainstream motorsports focus.

2. Rick Mears- The Bakersfield, California- born racer got his start on the off-road circuits. However, in a career that spanned from the late 1970s to the early 90s, Mears became one of the legends of IndyCar racing. Mears’ resume boasts three series titles and a record-tying four Indianapolis 500 victories. Despite having his career somewhat shortened, Mears’ accomplishments cement him as one of the greatest drivers of all-time.

1. Jeff Gordon- Perhaps the best stock car driver of the last 20 years, the Vallejo, California native made his way on to the big stage in 1992. 23 years, 92 wins and four Cup Series championships later, Gordon is less than five months away from calling it a career. His on-track accomplishments and overall impact on NASCAR have helped make him one of the most recognizable athletes in any sport.

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