Lights glistened as the stars took to California Speedway FONTANA, Calif. (September 6, 2004) - The lights were a hit as records fell and Elliott Sadler's stock rose at the inaugural "Finish Under the Lights" Pop Secret 500 at California...
Lights glistened as the stars took to California Speedway
FONTANA, Calif. (September 6, 2004) - The lights were a hit as records fell and Elliott Sadler's stock rose at the inaugural "Finish Under the Lights" Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway Sunday, September 4th.
Driving the No. 38 M&M's Ford, Sadler treated those in attendance to his second victory of 2004 and third overall, nosing out rookie Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) to set a California Speedway NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series record for closest margin of victory of 0.263 seconds. Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) finished third.
"I am happy to win the first Labor Day race here at California. That means my name will be in the books for a long, long time," said Sadler, who clinched a spot in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" by virtue of his victory. Sadler, who is in sixth place with 3,204 points, will have an easy ride this weekend in Richmond as he has already locked up one of the coveted 10 spots in the "Chase."
With only the Chevy Rock and Roll 400 remaining at Richmond International Raceway, both Kahne (ninth/3,067) and Martin (10th/3,058) moved into the top-10. They did so on an evening in which numerous track records were set.
The race featured 29 lead changes (breaking the 1999 mark of 28), 11 cautions (breaking the 2003 mark of eight), 51 laps run under caution (shattering the record of 35 set in 1998), 32 cars running at the finish (tying the 1997 mark for fewest drivers) and 28 cars finishing on the lead lap (breaking the 2001 mark for most cars on the lead lap).
The lights, however, showed the way for fans and drivers alike. Turned on nearly simultaneously, the lights were flipped beginning at 6:10 p.m. The interior lights were turned on from Turn four, than three, two and one followed by pit road. In similar fashion the exterior lights were turned on from the grandstands in sweeping force until all the lights were turned on along the backstretch. By sunset at 7:11 p.m., the 2-mile, D-shaped oval and the stock cars on track were glistening like bright stars.
"The lighting system was perfect. It was just perfect. California Speedway did a great job this weekend. They did a perfect job," Sadler said. "We're California dreamin' tonight."
Three-time California Speedway winner Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Pepsi/DuPont Chevrolet) agreed that the new style of racing at the Southern California superspeedway was a hit. "The lights are great. I love it," Gordon said. Despite his success at the oval, he went on to finish 37th after engine trouble ended his night after 209 laps. "I think it's fantastic to see a track like this run in the lights."
NASCAR returns to Southern California for the triple-header Auto Club 500 weekend February 25-27. Season tickets are on sale now. For event and ticket information, call (800) 944-RACE  or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.