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NASCAR Blog - Auto Club 400 (Fontana)

Got some work to do on pit road
Got some work to do on pit road

Tony Stewart wins the rain-shortened Auto Club 400 at Fontana. Only 5 races in and it's his second victory. Not my favorite guy, certainly would've rather seen someone else win it. The biggest kick in the pants is the horrible luck that befell Jeff Gordon and the 24 team. He started 21st and right from the drop of the green flag started powering to the front. First cracking the top 15, then moving through the top 10 and up into the top 5. Several times turning out the fastest laps. But then he went down pit road and the gas man got the fuel dispenser stuck in the car and actually got drug into the next pit box. Ultimately that's removing equipment from your pit stall, that's a no-no. He has to come back in and do a stop and go pass through. Then more problems on pit road, a runaway tire this time, that results in another pass through. When it's all said and done he's p26 when the rain comes and the event is called. Now he's 25th in points. Pretty rough start to the season. He's had top 5 cars at Daytona, Bristol, and now Fontana only to have serious problems at each event. Ironically he wasn't competitive hardly at all at Phoenix and Vegas yet managed 8th and 12th place finishes respectively.

Meanwhile, fresh off winning the appeal to get his points back and Knaus and Malek's suspension removed Jimmie Johnson finishes 10th. He actually had mechanical issues that probably would've taken him out of the race but the rain came just at the right time. Probably feels good to have that horseshoe back. And June-Bug finishes 3rd and is also 3rd in points, continuing to carry the flag for Hendrick Motorsports. He's running great this year, think that winless streak (134 races now?) will finally come to an end.

Another head scratcher is Darian Grubb calling Denny Hamlin onto pit road as the rain came out, losing him 9 finishing positions. I like Grubb, he's a smart guy, but not the best call, they certainly knew hard rain was coming. At least they already got a win this year (Phoenix). And I'm sure Grubb doesn't want to make many bad calls after being fired from being Stewart's crew chief despite leading him to his third championship. He needs to show that Tony made a mistake in letting him go. Which is a futile effort if Tony and Steve Addington (a great guy) keep winning races. Tony's won 2 of the first 5 races and this reminds me of when Jimmie won 3 of the first 5 in 2010. Jimmie slowed down a little after that and I hope Tony does too.

On the Nationwide side of things Joey Logano won extending JGR's steak to 8 consecutive wins at Auto Club Speedway. Loved seeing the big smile on Joe Gibbs' face. Think he loves winning races with Joey, not having to put up with either Tony or Kyle has got to be a big part of that grin.

Well, next up is Martinsville. Feel good about this. Jeff leads all active drivers with 7 victories and right behind him is Jimmie with 6. And to top it all off Jr was leading late last year only to lose it to Harvick at the end. So the chances of Rick finally getting win 200 are looking pretty good. And the 24 team could certainly use a win right now.