MRN Flashback: 1998 California 500

Mark Martin

Martin started third, led a race-high 165 laps – including the final 45 – and beat runner-up Jeremy Mayfield to the checkered flag by 1.287 seconds. (Photo: ISC Archives)

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In the early weeks of the 1998 NASCAR season, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon established themselves as Sprint Cup Series championship contenders … each winning twice in the first two months of the campaign.

On May 3, 1998, it was Martin who gained the advantage – driving his No. 6 Roush Racing Ford to victory in the second running of the California 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

Martin started third, led a race-high 165 laps – including the final 45 – and beat runner-up Jeremy Mayfield to the checkered flag by 1.287 seconds. Terry Labonte finished third.

Gordon, seeking his third Cup Series championship in four years, had qualified on the pole and led the first 21 laps before yielding to Mayfield. He would lead only two circuits during the rest of the afternoon and finished fourth. Darrell Waltrip completed the top five.

There were 18 lead changes among just eight drivers with six cautions for 35 laps. Kenny Irwin was the highest-finishing rookie, in 16th place.

Following the weekend at Fontana, Gordon caught fire with victories in 11 of the year’s final 23 races, including a four-race mid-summer winning streak that helped carry him to the championship. Martin ended the season with seven wins and finished second to Gordon in the title chase.

Visit MotorRacingNetwork.com on Thursday at 1 p.m. (ET) to hear the complete broadcast of the 1998 California 500 Presented by NAPA, anchored by Barney Hall and Allen Bestwick. Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will feature a classic race broadcast each week on “Throwback Thursday” throughout the 2013 season at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup

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