Race Review: Pepsi 500

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56825352Welcome race fans to the 30th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and the 4th race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Pepsi 500 takes place at the 2 mile track now known as the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. Denny Hamlin in his #11 FedEx car is on the pole with a speed of 183.870. 00 David Reutimann qualified his Aaron’s Dream Machine second, but the shocks were found to be low, and will start the race in 42nd. That moves the whole outside line up, and puts #16 Greg Biffle into the second starting position. 09 is Mike Bliss, who also raced in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday. 36 is Michael McDowell. 64 Mike Wallace and 37 Tony Raines failed to make the race. Actor Kelsie Grammer gave the command to start the engines. (This is Hollywood, after all.)

This is the first year Auto Club Speedway has been in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. They switched places in the schedule with Atlanta Motor Speedway. Atlanta gets Labor Day weekend. And the fans will not be subjected to the high heat. Hopefully, they will get a bigger crowd without the heat and in The Chase. 5 Mark Martin will be the in-race reporter. Kyle Busch, the media darling, isn’t feeling well this weekend, with flu-like symptoms. Denny got into his #18 car at the first caution in the NASCAR Nationwide race. And David Gilliland will drive his #71 car a number of laps before parking it and getting into the 18 at the first caution. 250 laps on this 2 mile track will be 500 miles.

So, here we go! 11 Denny Hamlin chooses the outside to start the race. 16 Greg Biffle battles with 11 for the lead, but 11 pulls ahead to lead from the pole. 16 Biffle and 48 Jimmy Johnson battle for second, with 48 taking the spot. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya pushes 16 to get him into the wall. 99 Carl Edwards bumps 5 Mark Martin. 77 Sam Hornish, Jr. gets loose and brushes the wall. 71 Gilliland goes to the garage so he can get out of his car and wait to get into 18. 42 goes low to get by 16. 2 Kurt Busch bounces off the wall. 48 is catching leader 11. 11 and 48 battle for the lead. 48 takes the lead. 42 gets by 11 for second. 11 and 29 Kevin Harvick battle for third. 24 and 11 battle for fourth. 7 Robby Gordon heads to his pits with his exhaust pipe hanging out. 5 and 99 battle for sixth with 5 taking the spot.

The first caution comes out during the commercial. 26 Jamie McMurray gets into the wall. He was the first car a lap down, so there is no free pass. 24 finally got around 11 for fourth. In the pits, 48 drops a lug nut and looses six spots. Kyle Busch gets out and David Gilliland gets into 18. They change tires with one to go and exit the pits in front of the pace car. 42 chooses the outside for the restart. 29 takes the lead. 11 takes the lead. 29 and 11 battle for the lead. 11 keeps the lead. 5 goes around 29 for second. 42 gets by 29 for third. 24 gets by 29. 5 and 11 battle for the lead. 5 leads that lap. 11 fights back. 5 takes the lead. 42 takes the lead during the commercial. He drove by on top. 29 and 24 battle for fifth. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is in tenth.

The second caution comes out for the right front tire blown out on 39 Ryan Newman. 1 takes two tires to lead and chooses the outside. 42 takes the lead. 11 and 5 get by 1. 88 gets by 2 for tenth. 2 and 88 battle for tenth. 2 gets back by 88. 42 is running away with the lead. 2 and 99 get together. 14 Tony Stewart gets by 99. 48 is catching the leader, 42. 42 and 48 battle for the lead. 42 keeps the lead. 42 and 48 battle side by side for the lead. 48 goes low to take the lead.

The third caution comes out during the commercial, again for debris. 82 Scott Speed is the Lucky Dog and gets back on the lead lap. 17 is too fast exiting the pits. 11 comes out first and chooses the outside. 24 takes the lead, but 11 takes it back before the Start/Finish line. 42, 5, 16 battle for position. 9 Kasey Kahne gets by 14 for thirteenth.  48 goes by 11 to take the lead. 44 A. J. Allmendinger gets loose into 98 Paul Menard. 88 started 37th and is up to sixth. 42 and 24 battle for third. 42 gets by. 43 Reed Sorenson gets by Chase contender 83 Brian Vickers. 11 and 42 battle for second. 42 finally takes second. 88 gets by 2.

And we get Green Flag Pitting once again with 48 leading. 42 leads when 48 pits. 99 leads when 42 pits. 24 leads when 99 pits. 14 leads when 24 pits. 88 comes out ahead of 2. And 48 is back into the lead. 14 is caught speeding in three spots and has to make a pass-through. 48 puts 18, now Gilliland, a lap down. 88 and 2 battle for seventh.

The fourth caution comes out during the commercial. Again for debris. 17 Matt Kenseth is the Lucky Dog and is back on the lead lap. 11 chooses the outside and blocks and spins into the infield at the restart, bringing out the fifth caution. He tried to get in front of 42, but 42 was already there. He hits the inside wall. The crew goes to work on 11. 42 chooses the inside for the restart. 48 sails by 42 on top to take the lead. 9 and 17 battle for ninth. 31 Jeff Burton, 16 and 1 are three wide. 16, 31 and 33 Bowyer are three wide. 88 and 9 battle for eighth, with 9 getting by. 47 Marcos Ambrose gets by 17 for tenth. 77 gets sideways. 14, 31, 99 battle for position. A modified 11 is back on the track. 16 gets by 17 for eleventh.

Another round of Green Flag Pitting starts with 24 laps to go. 2 leads when 48 pits. 14 leads when 2 pits. 14 finally pits with 16 laps to go. And the sixth caution comes out for debris as 14 is exiting the pits. 34 John Andretti hasn’t pitted yet and leads the race. 1 with Guitar Hero 5 on his car is in the pits with the hood up, as the car is missing and they’re trying to figure out why. 48 chooses the outside. That puts 24 on the inside, where he likes it. 24 takes the lead. They battle on the track four wide.

The seventh caution comes out with eleven to go. 2 gets into the wall, into 9. 9 spins taking 16 with him into the infield. 20 Joey Logano is the Lucky Dog, and back on the lad lap. 24 chooses the outside. 24 and 48 battle for the lead, with 48 taking the lead. 2 is smoking with a tire rub. The eighth caution comes out for many cars. And there is a Red Flag for clean up with six laps to go. 31, 44, 88, 9, 19 Elliott Sadler, 47, 83, 43 Reed Sorenson are all involved. 19 turned 88 to start it. All four Richard Petty Motorsports cars are involved. When they get going again, there will be a Green, White Checker finish.

48 chooses the inside this time, and pulls away. 2 is still smoking. 24 and 42 battle for second, with 24 keeping the spot. And 48 Jimmy Johnson wins the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. For a track where nothing usually happens, things sure did happen. Jimmy Johnson takes the lead in points with the win, leaving Martin 12 behind.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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