Pop Secret 500

2014 Pop Secret 500

The Pop Secret 500 race has been renamed the Pepsi 500, but it still features all the heart-pounding action you've come to expect from a Nascar race. Whatever motor-driven racing you love, there is something for you at Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) in Fontana, California. NASCAR, Indy racing, road races? Races with motorcycles or with historic autos? Auto Club Speedway hosts all of those and is also the location for the Auto Club Dragway, a quarter-mile dragstrip where National Hot Rod Association events are held. Two big NASCAR weekends happen at this 2-mile oval: in February, a Craftsman Truck race one day and a Nationwide Series (formerly Busch Series) the next lead up to the Sprint Cup's Auto Club 500; on Labor Day weekend, it's another 300-lap Nationwide race and then the California 500 (most recently titled Pepsi 500, and nicknamed 'The Finish Under the Lights').

Southern California boasts some very large sports venues, but Auto Club Speedway's capacity is twice that of Angel Stadium; in fact, seating over 92,000, it is even larger than the Rose Bowl, and that's counting only the grandstands, not the suites and the infield full of hundreds of RVs. Opened in 1997, it was built on the site of the Kaiser Steel Mill; its water tower was left standing to commemorate the mill's shipbuilding contribution to World War II. Other marks of distinction are almost 300 palm trees and forming the horizon of the backstretch, the lofty Cucamonga Peaks.

Some well-established racing stars have distinguished themselves at Auto Club Speedway. Jeff Gordon has a record three victories, not to mention 412 laps as leader. Michael Waltrip has driven the most racing miles there: 6,690 miles in 21 NASCAR competitions. But the Speedway can be good to a rookie, too, at least if the rookie is Kyle Busch in 2005. Early in the season, Busch won the pole position for the Auto Club 500 and broke a record for qualifying by flying around the track at over 188 mph. In September, he topped that with his first Nextel Cup victory, the Sony HD 500, coincidently becoming the youngest driver to win a race at that level, being four days younger than Donald Thomas was when he had set that benchmark in 1952.

Just north east of where Interstate 10 crosses Interstate 15, Auto Club Speedway is an easy drive from Los Angeles, Palm Springs, or San Diego. Take I-10 to the Cherry Avenue exit; the Speedway is one mile to the north. Or perhaps even easier, the Speedway provides charter trains on race weekend, via the Metrolink Train Service. On-site trams will whisk you from the train or the parking lot to the stands. A trip out to Auto Club Speedway is a great combination of relaxation and exhilaration!


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