California: Time for some fun in the sun

FONTANA, Calif. (April 28, 2004) --- Sunny Southern California is ready to shine for some of racings biggest stars as they head out west for this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Auto Club 500. While other parts of the country might...

FONTANA, Calif. (April 28, 2004) --- Sunny Southern California is ready to shine for some of racings biggest stars as they head out west for this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Auto Club 500. While other parts of the country might have been bombarded with snowstorms or cold fronts in recent weeks, the "Golden State" is shinning and ready to show the nation why more than 18 million people live within the five counties that surround California Speedway.

The weather is beautiful out west; temperatures are expected to be in the low 90-degrees through the weekend, with little humidity, as reported on weather.com. The sun will be out and it will be a perfect time to catch up on that sun-tan as you watch the cars go round, but be sure to pack the sunscreen, no point in getting a sunburn.

Enough about the weather, let's get down to racing! The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rolls into Fontana, Calif., for the 10th race of the season, the Auto Club 500. Past winners of the 500-mile, 250-lap event include Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jeremy Mayfield, Rusty Wallace, Jimmie Johnson and last year's winner Kurt Busch. These seven drivers overwhelm the speedway's record book, especially Gordon, who is the only two-time (1997 & 1999) winner at the superspeedway.

"It's exciting to win as a car owner, but it doesn't compare to winning as a driver," Gordon said. "The best part of my job is winning, and that's what we strive to do each and every weekend." He also leads the leader boards with the most miles completed (3,498 of 3,500), most money earned ($858,373), most laps led (331) and most starts (7, but shares that with 20 other drivers).

Gordon heads to California with momentum from last weekend's win at Talladega. If he wins this weekend, it will mark the 19th time Gordon has won back-to-back races during his 12-year career. It would also extend his streak of multiple win seasons to 11, the longest current streak in NASCAR's premier division. "We're not worried about streaks or records. We just want to go into the upcoming off-weekend with momentum still on our side."

Another driver to watch this weekend is Bobby Labonte. Though he hasn't won at California Speedway, he has three top-three finishes at the superspeedway, including a second place showing in 2003. "We've had some good runs at California and have finished second there twice," said the 2001 pole sitter. "I'm hoping that we can finally score a win there this weekend."

Other drivers to watch this weekend include Terry Labonte and Jeff Burton, who have competed all but 10 and 18 miles during all seven events combined, respectively. NASCAR Cup Champion (2003) Matt Kenseth has been dominant at California Speedway as well, with three NASCAR Busch Series victories, including the 2003 event. Also, don't rule out Ryan Newman, who holds the pole record of 187.432 mph and had a solid two-day test here in January. There are about 20 drivers who all have legitimate chances at a solid top-10 finish at the Southern California oval, but only nine will come out near the top, and one will come out on top.

Don't miss your chance to see NASCAR's premiere series perform in the beautiful sunshine of Southern California. No one knows who will take the checkered flag first and become the 2004 Auto Club 500 champion. Tickets start at just $65 for Sunday's Auto Club 500. Purchase your tickets today.

For ticket and event information call 800-944-RACE (7223) or log onto www.californiaspeedway.com.

-cs-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin