We’ll never forget the 1979 Daytona 500, which turned us on to the glory of NASCAR. On the final lap, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison smashed into each other while going for the lead. Their Oldsmobiles hit the wall, and then slid down to the muddy infield, leaving Richard Petty—our idol, even if he is a nutty Republican—to cruise to an easy win. The best part, though, was the aftermath—Yarborough, Allison, and Allison’s brother Bobby, pissed off and duking it out, landing face punches on live TV. Awesome.
NASCAR just ain’t as rednecky like that anymore—the only fight you’re likely to see Sunday at California Speedway will be between two guys arguing if the late Dale Earnhardt was God, or merely Christ-like. Still, there’ll be some serious racing going on, with Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and rookie boy-wonder Denny Hamlin chasing after the NEXTEL Cup. Distractions include Kelly Clarkson, who’ll do the “Gentlemen, start your engines!” holler; the Speedway will see the opening of Apex, a new Wolfgang Puck eatery; and Puddle of Mudd (ick!) and Jim Belushi (icky-ick!) will do some songs.
Though there’ll be racing Friday and Saturday, with the big Sony HD 500 on Sunday, there are other events going all weekend in the IE, starting with the free Thursday night (tonight, if you’re reading this on the 31st) Fan Fest at the Ontario Convention Center, with vendors, autographs, a photo exhibit of the old Ontario Motor Speedway, and bands both great (IE’s own Justin Black & the Light) and not-so-much (Eddie “I’ll Do Just About Anything For” Money). Suck up that exhaust, honey—and don’t forget the earplugs. (Rich Kane)
THE SONY HD 500 AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY, 9300 CHERRY AVE., FONTANA, (800) 944-7223; WWW.CALIFORNIASPEEDWAY.COM. SUN., 5 P.M. $55-$105. (OTHER RACING AND EVENTS AT THE SPEEDWAY ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY). ONTARIO FAN FEST AT THE ONTARIO CONVENTION CENTER, 2000 E. CONVENTION CENTER WAY, ONTARIO; WWW.ONTARIOFANFEST.COM. THURS., AUG. 31, 4-10 P.M. FREE.