NASCAR Race Review: Pepsi Max 400

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Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. The Pepsi Max 400 is the 30th race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and the fourth race in the chase for the Sprint Cup. The race is at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. This two mile track has lots of room for racing. And race they did. 1 Jamie McMurray starts from the pole with a speed of 185.285, the only driver to go 185 mph. 19 Elliott Sadler starts on the front row with Jamie. Only three “chasers” start in the top ten: 17 Matt Kenseth (3rd), 16 Greg Biffle (7th) and 48 Jimmie Johnson (8th). 11 Denny Hamlin changed the transmission and will have to start from the rear.

So, here we go! 1 chooses the outside and takes off. 17 gets by 19 for second. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya and 17 battle for second, but 17 keeps the spot. They race each other again and this time 42 gets by. 31 Jeff Burton goes under 18 Kyle Busch but 18 shuts the door on 31. 29 Kevin Harvick, 39 Ryan Newman and 13 Casey Mears race three wide. 13 gets by 29 and 39. 39 comes back and gets by 13 and 29. 29 pushes 13 past 39. 42 brushes the wall. 1 and 17 battle side by side for the lead. 17 Kenseth takes the lead.

48 has debris on his front grill, making him overheat. 56 Martin Truex, Jr. brushes the wall.  48 gets by 1 for second. 16 pushes 5 Mark Martin. 5 and 16 get by 9 Kasey Kahne. 00 David Reutimann, 20 Joey Logano and 12 Brad Keselowski race three wide with 00 pulling ahead. 29 gets by 14 Tony Stewart. 48 gets behind lapped car, 09 Bobby Labonte to dislodge the debris. 19 and 5 battle back and forth for fourth. Green Flag Pitting starts and 48 leads. 42 was too fast entering the pits. After it all, 17 is back in the lead. 31, 29 and 00 race three wide.

The first caution comes out when 16 blows the engine. He dropped a valve and there is much smoke. 38 David Gilliland gets the free pass back onto the lead lap. 17 is leading with 33 Clint Bowyer beside him. 24 Jeff Gordon takes the lead with help from 48 pushing him between 17 and 33. 48 then takes the lead. 18, 17 and 5 get by 24. 17 and 5 race side by side and 5 finally takes the spot. 12 gets into the wall after he gets out of shape. 18 can’t get by leader 48. 5 and 18 battle for second.

The second caution caution comes out when 47 Marcos Ambrose slides across the track and flattens his tires, creating much debris on the track. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya gets his lap back. In the pits 1 had a lug nut issue. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. stays out to lead. (Probably not a good idea.) At the restart, 48 takes the lead. The fourth caution is for 99 Carl Edwards stopped on the apron. The tow truck pushes him to the garage where they replace the fuel pump. He will return to the track, fourteen laps down. 37 Travis Kvapil gets the free pass.

48 is leading. 24 gets by 18 for second. 5 gets by 24 for second. 33 and 17 race each other back and forth for sixth. 5 Martin takes the lead. 33 goes low around 18. 17 drives under 18. 88 makes a pit stop. 17 gets by 14 for fifth. 39 gets by 18 for eighth. Green Flag Pitting starts again. 29 is too fast exiting. 38 David Gilliland leads, then pits. 24 gets around 48 for second. 00 and 17 battle back and forth for sixth.(Now that’s what I call racing. They race side by side, one of them gets by, the other dives down and they race side by side some more.)

The fourth caution is for debris. 24 and 33 battle for the lead. 33 Bowyer takes the lead. 5 gets by 24 for second. 11 goes to the bottom to get around 48. The fifth caution is again for sliding 47, almost in the same spot. 33 leads them to the pits. 24 has a short stop of 11.8 seconds! The sixth caution is for debris. 17 leads the rear down pit road. The leaders stay out. 14 Stewart takes the lead. 5 and 24 race side by side and 5 takes the spot. 9, 48 and 24 race three wide. 14, 33 and 39 race each other for the lead. 39 and 33 race side by side for second.

The seventh caution comes out for 18 up in smoke. He looses the engine and is out of the race with a DNF (Did Not Finish), finishing in 35th. 24 is too fast entering pit road. 20  and 56 Martin Truex, Jr.  get together on pit road. 37 Dave Blaney gets a lap back. 42 takes two tires for the lead. 14 takes the lead. 42, 33 and 39 race three wide for second. 48, 17 and 9 race three wide and 48 comes out ahead. 42 gets sideways. 29, 48 and 11 race three wide. 48 backs out of that situation. 33 takes the lead. 29 and 39 race each other for fifth with 9 right behind. (And they go to a commercial!)

The eighth caution comes out during the commercial for debris. 98 Paul Menard and 78 Regan Smith take two tires to lead. 14 pushes 98 to get by. 78 takes the lead. 78 and 14 battle for the lead and 14 takes the lead. 17 is smoking. 9 goes high to get around 78 and 48 for second. 48 gets by 9 for second.

The ninth caution comes out when 6 David Ragan comes up the track in front of 2 Kurt Busch who hits 6 in the left door and pushes him sideways down the track. At the restart, there is a “Talladega Pack”, that is, three wide, several cars deep. 48 nad 33 battle for second side by side right to the Finish Line. 33 finishes in second. And 14 Tony Stewart wins the Pepsi Max 400 at the Auto Club Speedway. This is his first win at this track. Tony has 39 career wins. This is his second win this year. There were twelve different leaders.

In my opinion, this race had some good side by side racing and even three wide racing. What I would call a great race. There was some good hard racing all around the track. Maybe because the race was shortened from 500 miles to 400 miles. I thought it was a good, exciting race. Except for the debris cautions. (I can’t figure out why there is so much trash at this track. Doesn’t the track have garbage cans? Or can’t the fans find those containers?) Auto Club Speedway will not have this date next year.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR.

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