For Tony Stewart, winning races out of the gate would be a huge boost for the #14 team as they quest to get back in to the Chase. On Sunday, Tony Stewart got another boost as he went on to win the rain-shortened Auto Club 400. Stewart led twice for 42 laps.
2nd was Kyle Busch, and 3rd was Dale Earnhardt Jr (after Hamlin pitted and Jimmie Johnson had oil issues), who finished in the top-5 for the first time since Daytona. Kyle Busch lead for most of the 120-laps run Sunday. He led 80 laps.
Overall, the racing yesterday was absolutely clean, and action-packed. All the teams knew that the rain was going to come at some point within the race so track position was key throughout the shortened race. Track position sure did help for drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr.
When the caution came out on lap 124, the pits were open to all drivers. While alot of them decided to stay out, Tony Stewart pulled a fake pit-maneuver on Denny Hamlin. Denny Hamlin would give up 2nd position to pit. After another driver pitted, that ultimately helped Dale Earnhardt Jr pick up 2 positions in route to his top-3 finish.
Kevin Harvick, and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-5.
Other than the one caution for rain, the race was caution-free.
When asked about the fake-pitting, Auto Club 400 winner Tony Stewart told reporters he didn’t do it to stump Hamlin. ”I don’t think that I faked him out. I’m sure he had made his decision already — looked good, though.”
Denny Hamlin agreed to Stewart’s opinions about committing to pit-road. ”We were planning on the race going back to green, and if it doesn’t, we’ll lose some spots, but if we chose to stay out there, we would have to be behind all the cars that pitted [if the race restarted],”
For Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, the race ending via rain was somewhat of a godsend. Johnson had oil pressure issues (which were never figured out), and Kyle Busch had damage to his car that caused the car to slow down acouple MPH.
Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville, Virginia to race on the half-mile paper-clip known as Martinsville Speedway. Gonna be a great race.
For the results of yesterday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, go HERE.