NASCAR Race Review: Auto Club 400


Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series raced their fifth race of the season, the Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. This is a two mile D-shaped oval in southern California.

In the four previous races so far this year, there have been four different race winners. Will this one see a fifth winner, or will one of them win again? This is also the fifth different kind of track. Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500, the season opener at the 2.5 mile super speedway. Denny Hamlin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the one mile Phoenix International Raceway. Tony Stewart finally won at the 1.5 mile track in Las Vegas in the Kobalt Tools 400. He normally doesn’t get started winning until the summertime. Last week Brad Keselowski won at the half mile track in Bristol, the Food City 500.

No driver leading the first lap in California has gone on to win the race. Only Jimmie Johnson has won from the Pole position. Johnson has five wins here. Kevin Harvick won this race last year. Joe Gibbs Racing has won the last eight Nationwide races at this track, but has yet to win in the Sprint Cup Series. JGR drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch start first and second for this race. Will either one of them win this race?

11 Denny Hamlin captured the Pole with a speed of 186.403 mph and 38.626 seconds around this two mile track. 18 Kyle Busch and 55 Mark Martin had the same speed and start second and third. 16 Greg Biffle and 5 Kasey Kahne also posted the same speed and start fourth and fifth. Rain is in the forecast, so they will be racing for the halfway point. (It never rains in southern California. It pours, man it pours.) 200 laps is 400 miles. After 101 laps the race will be considered completed if the rains come.

So, here we go! 11 Denny Hamlin chooses the inside lane. 11 and 18 Kyle Busch race for the lead and 11 leads that first lap. 18, 11 and 16 Greg Biffle race for the lead and 18 takes over. 5 Kasey Kahne, 20 Joey Logano and 29 Kevin Harvick race three wide for position. 29 takes it.  39 Ryan Newman gets by 55 Mark Martin for fourth. 39 and 16 race side by side for third, 39 drives under 16 to take the spot. 14 Tony Stewart slides in front of 29 and Harvick lets him know he better get going. 14, 39, 29 and 48 Jimmie Johnson get by 55.

29 and 48 race side by side for sixth. 16 and 14 race for third. 14 gets by. 29 gets by 39. 14 slides in front of 11 for second. Green Flag pitting starts with all the leaders coming in at the same time. 34 David Ragan leads. 18 is back in the lead after all the pitting. 78 Regan Smith was too fast exiting. 39 slides in front of 29. 48 drives under 16. 11 and 14 race for second and 14 gets by. 16 and 24 Jeff Gordon (who started 24th) and 16 race for fifth. 24 goes to the apron to get by. 24 and 48 race for fourth.

55 starts another round of Green Flag pitting. 1 Jamie McMurray has to come back in for a missing lug nut. 24 leads. 47 Bobby Labonte is too fast exiting. 48 leads, then pits. 18 is back in the lead. 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and 16 race for sixth and 88 gets by. 99 Carl Edwards drives under 55. 1 is back in with a loose wheel. 14 and 18 race for the lead while 18 is trying to lap 42 Juan Pablo Montoya. (No courtesy is required here. No driver wants to get lapped, or is required to do so.) 14 takes the lead. 18 scrapes the wall.

13 Casey Mears makes an unscheduled pit stop. 11 and 18 race for second and 11 gets by. 31 Jeff Burton starts another round of Green Flag pitting at half way. 2 Brad Keselowski is too fast entering pit road. 48 leads as 14, 11 and 18 make their pit stops. 48 pits and 24 leads. 24 pits and the fuel can gets stuck in the tank. He finally gets it out only after the car is out of his pit. Gordon gets a stop and go penalty for taking equipment out of the pit.

14, 11, 18, 48 and 88 are the top five after the pitting. The first and only caution comes out for rain in Turn 3. 22 A. J. Allmendinger gets back onto the lead lap. 14 fakes going into the pits. 11 is committed to pitting and 48 follows him in. 17 Matt Kenseth has a tire rolling away. 48 comes out in tenth ahead of 11 but is smoking. The Red Flag comes out on lap 129 for rain. They all head to pit road, following the pace car. It pours (man it pours).

After half an hour, the race is declared completed. 14 Tony Stewart wins the rain shortened Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway. This is his 46th career win. Stewart becomes the first repeat winner this year. 18 Kyle Busch finishes second, followed by 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 29 Kevin Harvick, 99 Carl Edwards, 16 Greg Biffle, 39 Ryan Newman, 56 Martin Truex, Jr., 51 Kurt Busch and 48 Jimmie Johnson for the top ten. Pole sitter, 11 Denny Hamlin finishes eleventh.

With his fifth consecutive top ten finish, Greg Biffle remains first in championship points. Kevin Harvick remains in second, seven points behind. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moves up three spots into third. Tony Stewart also moves up three spots into fourth. Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex, Jr. and Denny Hamlin each fall two spots into fifth, sixth and seventh. Jimmie Johnson moves up another three spots into eighth. Clint Bowyer falls a spot into ninth and Ryan Newman moves up three spots into the top ten.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I Love NASCAR racing.

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