Race Review: Auto Club 500


Today’s Race Review is of the Auto Club 500 held at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. This is a two mile track and they will race 250 laps. It starts at 4:00 PM Pacific time so they can start the race in the sunshine and finish it under the lights. Not the best strategy, in my opinion. 66 is now Dave Blaney. 71 last week was Mike Wallace, who didn’t make the Daytona 500. This week it is California native, David Gilliland. Five cars failed to qualify: #64 Todd Bodine, from the Camping World Truck Series, #37 Tony Raines, #51 David Starr, also from the Trucks, #73 Mike Garvey, who also failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, and #09 veteran Sterling Marlin.

The pole sitter is #83 Brian Vickers with a speed of 183.164. However, he changed his engine, and will start from the rear. Also starting from the rear with engine trouble are: 00 David Reutimann, 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and 55 Michael Waltrip. 43 Reed Sorenson crashed in practice and starts his back-up car from the rear. That puts third place 26 Jamie McMurray on the pole. The weather is overcast and it looks like rain may be a factor. In my opinion, if they started the race earlier, rain would not be a factor. Actor Hugh Laurie gives the command to start the engines.

So, here we go. 48 Jimmy Johnson leads the first lap from starting second. They are four-wide back there in the field. 18 Kyle Busch gets by 16 Greg Biffle. 2 Kurt Busch holds off brother 18 Kyle for fourth. The first caution comes out on lap 5, with 7 Robby Gordon getting into the wall. But the caution is for sprinkles. 39 Ryan Newman has lost his transponder, so he pits to get a new one, and will get his spot back. He lost his end plate on the spoiler, so he has to go back in to get a new one.

Twenty-one cars stay out on the track. The other twenty-two pit. 17 Matt Kenseth comes out of the pits first in 22nd. Several cars come back to the pits for fuel, as the dryers are still on the track. They go Green on lap 23, with 48 still leading. 29 Kevin Harvick and 42 Juan Pablo Montoya battle. 29 gets by. 2 and 18 battle some more. 24 Jeff Gordon gets by 18. 16 Greg Biffle gets by 18. 2 gets by 26 for second. 24 gets by 26 for third. 11 Denny Hamlin and 29 battle. 11 gets by. 29 and 17 battle for eleventh. 16 gets by 26. 87 Joe Nemechek is being pushed to the garage. 83 Vickers gets by 12 David Stremme for 21st.

The second caution comes out on lap 40, again for rain. This time everyone pits. Out of the pits, it’s 2 Ku. Busch, 48 Johnson, 24 J. Gordon, 16 Biffle, 6 David Ragan, 17 Kenseth, 18 Ky. Busch, 14 Tony Stewart, 26 McMurray and 11 Hamlin as the top ten.The Green Flag comes out on lap 46. 48 and 2 battle for the lead. 48 finally takes the lead. 2, 24 and 16 battle for second. 99 Carl Edwards gets 28 Travis Kvapil sideways. 00 Reutimann gets by 5 Mark Martin. 29 and 99 battle. 2 and 24 battle for second. 36 Scott Riggs, 66 Blaney and 87 Nemachek are in the garage.

24 goes to the apron to get in front of 2 for second. 14 gets by 18. 24 catches Leader 48. 20 Rookie Joey Logano, 82 Rookie Scott Speed, 71 Gilliland and 41 Jeremy Mayfield are a lap down. 16 gets by 2 for third. 48 and 24 battle for the lead. 07 Casey Mears, a lap down gets in the way, but 24 takes the lead. And now after lap 83 we get Green Flag pitting. 16 Biffle and 99 Edwards lead during the pitting. And 24 is back in the lead after everyone pits.

16 gets by 48 for second. 17 and 2 battle for fourth. 6 Ragan gets into the wall. 29 and 6 battle. 18 and 99 battle. 18 scrapes the wall. 36 Riggs is back on the track, 9 laps down. 99 and 18 battle for seventh. 99 finally gets by 18. And there is more Green Flag pitting with 130 laps or so to go. 16 beats 24 out of the pits. 24 catches 16 while 16 is in traffic. And the third caution comes out again for rain. 88 Earnhardt, Jr. stays on the lead lap and 55 Michael Waltrip gets the Lucky Dog free pass. The announcers declare 48 has lost the handle on that car. He’s all the way back to third! 42 Montoya stayed out to lead a lap. 17 Kenseth is out of the pits first to lead. They ran 96 Green Flag laps. It will be a double-file restart with 99 laps to go.

24 gets by 16 for second. 48 and 16 battle for third. 48 gets by. 48 and 24 battle for second. 48 takes second from 24. 6 Ragan is overheating. Probably trash on the grill. 48 is falling back. He popped out of gear. The fourth caution is again for rain. 5 Martin’s engine is heading south. 17, the leader pulls up to the Pace car to get rid of debris on the grill. 14 Tony stewart stays out to lead. In fact, 42, 5, 12 David Stremme, 00 and 55 all stay out because they figure the race will be called. 88 lost a cylinder. The Flag man signals two to go and those who stayed out, now pit. 83 Brian Vickers is the Lucky Dog.

They go Green with 72 laps to go. 18, 2, 6 are three-wide. 5 Martin is up in smoke. But he is on the apron and out of harm’s way, so they stay Green. 2 and 16 get by 18. 2 and16 battle for fourth. 16 gets the spot. 24 and 48 battle for second. 24 gets by. Seventeen cars are on the lead lap. 14 gets by 26 for tenth. 42 and 26 get by 29. 18 gets by 2 for fifth. 24 catches leader 17. 24 J. Gordon takes the lead. 16 gets by 17 for second. 18 and 48 battle for fourth. 48 cuts 18 off. 18 finally gets by 48 for fourth.

The fifth caution comes out during the commercial. 29 Harvick blew a right front tire and got hard into the wall. 12 David Stremme stays out to lead. Everyone else pits. 29 lost the engine before he blew the tire. 16 overshoots his pit and runs over his air hose. He has to back up before they can service him. The crew adds brake fluid to 26. Sixteen cars are on the lead lap.

They go Green with thirty-five to go. 17 Kenseth is leading. 2 gets “push loose”. 20 and 55 battle. 99 gets by 48 for sixth. 24 is catching 17, the leader. 16 gets by 48 for seventh. 16 gets by 99 for sixth. 11 gets by 2 for fourth. 8 Aric Almirola has engine trouble. 16 gets by 11 and 2 for fourth. 17 and 24 leave third place 18 seven seconds behind. 24 is smoking his tires, trying to get to 17.

17 Matt Kenseth wins the Auto Club 500. This is only the fourth time in NASCAR history that a driver won the first two races. And it was accomplished last in 1997 by Jeff Gordon, who went on to win the Championship. Also notable, Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series, both on the same day, the day before. However, he fell short of all three on the same track. And Jeff Gordon is still winless. Kenseth could go on to win the first three races in Las Vegas, something that has never been accomplished.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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