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Gordon honored before his final Daytona race

Jeff Gordon greets fans during driver introductions before Sunday night’s rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Daytona. (Associated Press)
Jeff Gordon greets fans during driver introductions before Sunday night’s rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Daytona. (Associated Press)
Ap

As rain delayed his final race at Daytona International Speedway, four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was showered with cheers during driver introductions Sunday.

Speedway officials handed out thousands of placards commemorating Gordon’s milestones at Daytona, dating to his victory in a Daytona 500 qualifying race in 1993. By the time he was introduced in front of the grandstands near Turn 1, many of those cards were soggy from the rain.

That didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of some fans as Gordon walked on stage without an umbrella. They cheered while waving the commemorative cards.

Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, announced in January he plans to retire from full-time racing and become part of Fox’s broadcasting crew in 2016.

Gordon has no wins and two top-five finishes this year for Hendrick Motorsports. He ranks 11th in the Sprint Cup standings.

“This track is extremely special to me. Of course, we all know how much this track means to our sport,” Gordon said Saturday. “It’s hard for me to really put all those thoughts and feelings into perspective, knowing that I have half the season still to go.

“I don’t think it’s really going to hit me until we get further down into the final part of the season, but this place has meant a lot. It’s going to be tough not coming back here and being behind the wheel. But I’m also really excited about calling this race next February.”

With rain wiping out qualifying Saturday, Gordon will start 23rd in the 43-car field based on practice speeds.

Fans flocked near the garage area under overcast skies to have pictures taken near a replica of Gordon’s iconic rainbow-colored No. 24 Chevrolet – another send-off the track helped arrange for Gordon.

“I have this feeling it’s going to hit me all at once at Homestead,” Gordon said, referring to the season finale in November.

Formula One

Lewis Hamilton seized back control of the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England, after being overtaken on the first corner to win his fifth race of the season and strengthen his Formula One title defense.

A Mercedes one-two was just as forecast – with Nico Rosberg completing a ninth consecutive double podium for the team.

The victory extends Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg in the championship to 17 points.

NHRA

Doug Kalitta earned his second Top Fuel win of the season at NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

Kalitta secured his 37th career victory by driving his dragster past Antron Brown in the final round. Kalitta had a time of 3.823 seconds at 322.34 mph while Brown’s machine lost traction and trailed with a 3.918 at 307.79.

Jack Beckman, Greg Anderson and Karen Stoffer also won at the NHRA stop west of Cleveland.

Beckman beat Courtney Force in the final round for his third Funny Car victory of the season. His final-round performance of 4.211 seconds at 301.67 mph in a Dodge Charger R/T was enough for his 18th career win.

Anderson earned his fourth Pro Stock victory of the season and No. 78 for his career by holding off rookie Drew Skillman in the final round. Anderson posted a 6.592 at 212.19 to finish just of front of Skillman, whose Camaro clocked a 6.594 at 211.43.

In the third pro final round featuring a pair of female finalists in NHRA history, Stoffer defeated Angelle Sampey to take the Pro Stock Motorcycle victory. Stoffer earned her second win of the season and eighth of her career on a Suzuki when Sampey fouled at the start on her Buell.

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