NASCAR

Gordon honored at boyhood home before final Brickyard 400

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Gordon honored at boyhood home before final Brickyard 400

PITTSBORO, Ind. (AP) Jeff Gordon felt right at home Thursday back in small-town Indiana.

His parents, some of his longtime friends and even some of his former high school teachers were among hundreds of people lining the streets in Pittsboro to celebrate Gordon as he wraps up his final full-time season in NASCAR.

It was a fitting place for the biggest stop yet on his farewell tour.

Here, a short drive from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon honed his racing skills before he was old enough to obtain a driver's license. Here, he learned the importance of balancing weekend races with daily life. And now, three days before driving in his final Brickyard 400, Gordon came back to a community full of tall corn stalks, endless farming fields and dozens of mementoes bearing his well-known No. 24 to thank his biggest fans.

"This is very cool," Gordon said after participating in the short parade and brief awards ceremony. "Pittsboro is obviously very memorable to me because we lived here, raced out of here. Several years ago, they named Jeff Gordon Boulevard, so there have always been great experiences here. But to come here and have it be my last Brickyard 400, it's pretty overwhelming. It's putting a big smile on my face for the weekend."

The only thing that would make this weekend better would be reaching victory lane Sunday to become the first six-time winner on the speedway's historic 2.5-mile oval.

While the 43-year-old Gordon is not an Indiana native by birth, he is one of the state's favorite sons.

His parents moved from California to Pittsboro when Gordon was a rising star on the teenage racing circuit. They wound up in a small, suburban community west of Indy that was willing to support their son's aspirations along and the importance of Midwestern values.

If Gordon didn't understand those principles before arriving in Indiana, he did by the time he started racing stock cars.

After winning one race with a daring late move, Gordon's stepfather forced him to hand the winner's trophy to the second-place finisher and told him: "That's not how we race."

Gordon never made that mistake again and his genteel approach to racing has won over fans throughout Indiana - and beyond.

"I think it's pride, pride to have somebody from a small town do as good as Jeff's done and to be the kind of a man, the gentleman that he is," 78-year-old Pat McClain said.

In Indiana, there couldn't be a better combination.

From Milan's Bobby Plump to Martinsville's John Wooden, from Bedford's Damon Bailey to Rushville's Tony Stewart, every little town seems to have a story -- and a celebrity. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hails from Santa Claus. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens played prep basketball in Zionsville and college basketball at DePauw in Greencastle. And everyone knows Larry Bird is from French Lick.

But Gordon has become one of the state's best ambassadors, which is why everyone wanted to share the stage with him Thursday.

Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson named Gordon an honorary police officer and presented him a real badge. Tri-West superintendent Rusty King gave Gordon a plaque of the diploma he earned in 1989 with an inscription that read in part, "to our most famous graduate."

Town officials handed Gordon the proclamation papers from county and state leaders declaring Thursday as Jeff Gordon Day, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence presented Gordon with the Sagamore of the Wabash award -- the highest state honor for a civilian.

"He may not have been born in Indiana. But as his parents told me, he came here as soon as he knew about it," Pence joked. "He is a Hoosier through and through."

This year's farewell tour has included some memorable stops including driving the pace car in May's Indianapolis 500. The No. 24 will be on the hood of the pace car Sunday, too.

Yet after 92 Sprint Cup wins, four titles and five victories down the road at Indianapolis, the Rainbow Warrior saved his most emotional moments for his hometown crowd.

"This has been one of the best days of my life and I say that sincerely," Gordon said, his voice cracking, "because I not only get to see what Pittsboro's meant to me, I get to see what Pittsboro's meant to you by the way you've come out and supported me. This to me is a very, very special day."

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.