[media-credit name=”Simon Scoggins” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]2011 champion Tony Stewart led twice for 42 laps in the Auto Club 400(or should we say Auto Club 322?) and went on to win his second race of the season in California. After raindrops started to hit the track on Lap 124, Stewart, who was leading the race at the time, faked a move toward pit road to play with the competition’s pit strategy. He stayed on track just before the commitment cone, giving him the lead when NASCAR called the rain delayed race on Lap 129.
Stewart has moved three positions in points standings and is now in fourth position, 18 points behind the leader. This is Stewart’s second win at Fontana and his 46th career win, tying him with Buck Baker for 14th on the career victory list.
It is quite an accomplishment for a driver to win seven times in the last 15 races, and that is exactly what Stewart has done. Typically Stewart isn’t much of a contender in the first half of the season, but this season the veteran is taking off like a rocket. In the first five races of the 2011 season, Stewart only scored one top five finish and didn’t win his first race until the 27th race of the season, the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Greg Biffle Remains The Points Leader
Greg Biffle may have flown under the radar at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, but he still flies high on top of the points standings so far this season. Biffle qualified his 3M Ford Fusion in fourth position and rode in the Top 10 for most of the race. Biffle now has four top-10 finishes in five races so far this season. Biffle’s consistency this season is sure to put him in victory lane. Biffle’s last win was at Kansas Speedway in October of 2010.
As for the rest of his Roush Fenway Racing team, Carl Edwards finished in fifth position, his second top five of the season. Edwards gained three spots in the standings to rest in 12th position. Matt Kenseth finished in 13th position and dropped two positions in points to reside in fifth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr Continues Consistency; Unlikely Finishes for Rest of HMS
Dale Earnhardt Jr has been at the top of the leader board this season and continued his consistency with a third place finish in the Auto Club 400. Earnhardt was running in fifth position when caution for rain came out on Lap 123. This allowed him to pick up two spots when two cars ahead of him pitted under the caution. Earnhardt has finished in 15thposition or better so far this season, including two top five finishes. He is currently third in points, after gaining three positions with his top five finish in Fontana.
The rest of Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports team didn’t suffice as well as he did. While running in fourth position under caution on Lap 129 , Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet began leaking oil from the rear of his car. Thanks to the caution and rain shortened race, Johnson was able to limp around the track on the apron and finish in 10th position.
All Kasey Kahne needed at the Auto Club Speedway was to finish the race in a conservative fashion. He did just that, finishing in 15th position, his best finish of the season. Before the race at Fontana, Kahne was 34th in owner points. After the race, he has moved himself up to 26th position and gave himself some breathing room heading to Martinsville next weekend, where the owner points will be reset.
Jeff Gordon had a miserable day after suffering two pit road penalties, moving him from the top five all the way back to 26thposition. His first penalty of the race came on Lap 107 for equipment leaving the pit stall; Equipment being the gas can, along with his gas man. The final blow of the day came on Lap 126 when the team had a tire roll outside of the pit box.
Who Will Win At Martinsville Speedway?
Next weekend we head to the short track of Martinsville Speedway, known for it’s hot dogs and most importantly the grandfather clock trophy awarded to the winner of every race. Hometown boy Denny Hamlin knows how to get around the place, with four Cup wins at this track. However, teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon always fair well here with 13 wins between the both of them. As always, you can’t count out Tony Stewart who won the last race here in October and has won at Martinsville three times in his career.