Jimmie Johnson charged past Kevin Harvick coming out of an overtime restart and pulled away from the field Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, becoming the first repeat winner of the 2016 season. Johnson’s margin of victory was three-quarters of a second over Harvick, giving Chevrolet a sweep of the top two spots. Denny Hamlin came home third with Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Junior completing the top five. Johnson started nineteenth and led just twenty-five laps, including the final two trips around the two- mile Southern California oval. Sunday’s race was extended five laps beyond its scheduled distance due to a late caution brought about when Kyle Busch shredded a right-front tire. That was the last thing Harvick wanted to see.
He had led nearly three-quarters of the laps run to that point and seemed well on his way to a second straight victory on NASCAR’s three-race swing through the western United States, having won last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Instead, Harvick settled for second place behind Johnson – who notched his seventy-seventh Cup Series win and sixth at Auto Club Speedway.
For Harvick, all was not lost as he claimed sole possession of the points lead. He entered the weekend tied for first place with Busch and exits with an eleven-point advantage over Johnson, who advances from third to second.
Busch finished twenty-fifth on Sunday, the first time in five races this year that he’s been outside the top five, and slipped to fifth in the regular-season standings … Sunday’s race included twenty-six lead changes among eight drivers. There were six cautions for thirty-three laps.
The NASCAR X-Finity Series also visits Auto Club Speedway this weekend for Saturday’s Treat My Clot-dot-com 300. Kevin Harvick is the defending winner and returns seeking back-to-back victories driving the Number-88 Junior Motorsports Chevrolet. If successful, he would become just the fourth driver to double up there since Auto Club Speedway first hosted the X-FINITY Series in 1997: joining Matt Kenseth, who went back-to-back in 1999 and 2000.
Greg Biffle, who swept both races in 2004 … and Kyle Busch in 2008 and 2009, and again in 2010 and 2011 … Toyota has won nine of the last eleven X-FINITY Series races contested on the two-mile Southern California oval with six of those wins courtesy of Busch – who also has three poles at A-C-S. Each time he’s started an X-FINITY Series race from the Number-1 spot, that’s also where he’s finished the race.
Next up, Auto Club Speeday for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, fifth race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series and the last stop of a three-week tour of the western United States. Brad Keselowski was victorious in Las Vegas and Kevin Harvick won last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Sunday’s race will be contested on a wide, fast two-mile superspeedway – where Keselowski will be seeking his second straight victory. In winning last year’s race, the Team Penske driver gave Ford its first Fontana victory in the Sprint Cup Series since Matt Kenseth drove a Jack Roush-owned entry into the Winner’s Circle in 2009.
Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with five wins at A-C-S and Rick Hendrick is Number-1 among team owners with nine victories … Kyle Busch continues to show early-season muscle in defense of his 2015 championship, posting four straight top-five finishes. He enters the weekend tied with Harvick for first place in the standings. They’re fourteen points ahead of third-place Johnson. Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards round out the top five. Edwards’ total of three top-five finishes through the first four races of the season is second only to Kyle Busch, who owns the Sprint Cup Series qualifying record at Auto Club Speedway. His quick lap of 188.245 miles per hour from 2005 still stands – eleven years later.
There are thirty-nine drivers on the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 including thirty-six “Charter” teams. The three non-Charter drivers are rookie Ryan Blaney, Cole Whitt and Josh Wise.
There are six Cup Series competitors who are signed up for double duty and will also drive in Saturday’s X-FINITY Series race: Blaney, Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson. Harvick is the defending race winner. Busch leads all drivers with six X-FINITY Series wins on the two-mile Fontana oval including a stretch of three in a row in 2010 and 2011.
Joe Gibbs leads all car owners with eight victories there, all coming consecutively from 2008 through 2012. Busch, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart contributed to that run of success.
The Sprint Cup Series’ early-season three-race swing through the western United States continues this week with teams heading to Auto Club Speedway’s two-mile oval in Fontana. It’ll be the third distinctly different track in as many weeks. Brad Keselowski opened things up with a win March 6th in Las Vegas, a mile-and-a-half oval. From there, teams found their way to the flat one-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway, where Kevin Harvick was victorious.
Now, Sunday’s Auto Club 400 will be contested on a wide, fast two-mile superspeedway – where Keselowski will be seeking his second straight victory there. In winning last year’s race, the Team Penske driver gave Ford its first Fontana victory in the Sprint Cup Series since Matt Kenseth drove a Jack Roush-owned Ford into the Winner’s Circle in 2009 … Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with five wins at A-C-S and Rick Hendrick is Number-1 among team owners with nine victories.