April 21 in NASCAR: Jeff Gordon ties Dale Earnhardt at 76 Cup wins
April 21, 2007 was a big day for Jeff Gordon.
The four-time Cup Series champion came out on top in a duel with Tony Stewart in the final 19 laps to win the Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
He did so from the pole, which had never been done in the Cup Series at the 1-mile track. It was Gordon’s first win in 22 Phoenix starts, leaving only Miami and Texas as tracks Gordon had yet to conquer.
The victory also ended a 25-race winless streak dating back to the previous July when he won at Chicagoland. Since then Gordon and the No. 24 team had been planning to celebrate a special occasion: tying Dale Earnhardt on the all-time wins list.
The victory gave Gordon 76 wins on the Cup circuit, matching him with his former on-track rival and off-track business partner.
After taking the checkered flag, Gordon’s crew donned white hats in tribute to Earnhardt before one crew member gave Gordon a large No. 3 flag. After doing a burnout, Gordon drove around the track as he hoisted the flag out the window.
“It means the world,” Gordon told Fox in Victory Lane. “Just to get a win at a track that we’d never won at before. I drove my guts out, I’ve never had to drive so hard for a win. ... Holding that ‘3' flag ... to honor (Earnhardt) in that way it really means a lot to me. I learned so much from him. To even come close to anything he’d ever done in this sport is amazing to me. We wanted to honor him, we’ve been holding onto that flag for a long time. To get 76 is incredible.”
The race also marked the third event with the new Car of Tomorrow. In those three races, Gordon finished third, second and first.
Also on this date:
1963: After Fred Lorenzen broke an axle on Lap 460, Richard Petty took the lead and went on to win at Martinsville Speedway for his third win on the short track.
1968: David Pearson led the final 10 laps and won at North Wilkesboro after LeeRoy Yarbrough blew an engine while leading. Yarbrough was among 17 drivers who had their engines expire in the race, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: Big Bucks and Boycotts.”
1991: Darrell Waltrip led the final 52 laps and beat Dale Earnhardt to win at North Wilkesboro. It had been 19 months and 34 starts since Waltrip’s last win.
1996: Jack Sprague led 151 laps and beat Mike Skinner to win a Truck Series race at Phoenix. It was Sprague’s first of 28 career wins he’d earn through 2007.
2001: Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Mike McLaughlin led the final 10 laps and won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega. It was his first win since 1998 and would be his sixth and final career win.