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NOTES

Area Racers Have Tough Day

September 04, 2006|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

It was another day, and night, at the school of hard knocks for David Gilliland of Riverside.

Gilliland, who moved up to the Nextel Cup series last month with Robert Yates Racing, started 20th in the Sony HD 500 at the California Speedway in Fontana. Within the first 25 laps of the 250-lap race, he fell to 41st in the 43-car field and later fell a lap behind the leaders.

With 78 laps left, Gilliland's No. 38 Ford spun out in Turn 2, causing his tires to flatten. After making a pit stop, he was penalized for pitting too early and sent to the rear of the field.

"We're not quite where we need to be, but we're getting closer," he said. "At least we finished tonight without wrecking."

In his first Cup race a week earlier, Gilliland started 38th and finished 40th at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.

Gilliland, 30, got his break to join the Cup series after a surprise victory in a Busch Series race in Kentucky in June.

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Another Californian, veteran Robby Gordon of Orange, also had a tough race.

Gordon started 25th and his problems began early, as he spun out on the 10th lap. After pitting, he too was penalized for doing it too soon and too fast, and sent to the rear of the field.

His day ended with 40 laps left when the transmission on his Chevrolet failed, leaving him with a last-place finish.

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Thousands of fans braved the scorching heat to stroll through California Speedway's new midway, a $10-million upgrade and expansion of the track's fan amenities.

"I wasn't expecting this, I think it's better," said Rod Dyke of Loma Linda as he and his son, Rod Jr., 13, surveyed the grounds behind the track's front straightway.

The upgraded fan zone includes a retail store, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, an entertainment stage, and additional lawns and trees. It also includes the Nextel Cup drivers' souvenir trailers.

But five hours before the 5 p.m. race, as the temperature climbed toward 100 degrees, some fans said the midway -- mostly on asphalt -- still needed more places to stay cool.

"A little more grass, a little more shade for these hot days, and a few more places like this that are air-conditioned," said Tony Huff of Oxnard as he shopped in the store with Ingrid Alarcon of Port Hueneme.

Alarcon praised the new layout and said her only complaint was the music coming from the stage performers.

"The choice of music I didn't have a problem with," she said. "But even sitting in the stands yesterday, the bass was so loud from the music that you could feel it in the seats."

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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