Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA — March 1, 2020
Today’s Auto Club 400 from Auto Club Speedway will be Jimmie Johnson’s(48) final Cup start as his home race track. As Johnson’s retirement tour stops in Southern California he will be trying to break a 97-race winless streak. He will have the added advantage today of starting on the front row and taking the green flag from his wife Chandra with daughters Genevieve and Lydia on the flag stand.
The 200 laps around the two-mile oval will be separated into Stages of 60/60/80 laps. Last year’s winner Kyle Busch(18) will again be a favorite, despite starting in 17th place. Clint Bowyer(14) sits on the pole, with sentimental favorite Johnson beside him. Martin Truex Jr. (19) will start at the rear of the field today after repeatedly failing inspection and not being allowed to take a qualifying lap.
Auto Club Speedway is one of the widest tracks on the Cup circuit and drivers gave the fans a special five-wide pace lap prior to the start of the race. With Johnson out front accepting the appreciation of the fans, the rest of the field lined up in seven rows of five cars each.
Yeah, this pace lap at Auto Club Speedway is pretty cool. Catch the race right now on FOX!
Posted by NASCAR on Sunday, March 1, 2020
Bower drove to the lead as Johnson, Alex Bowman(88), Kurt Busch(1) fought for the 2nd spot early. Matt DiBenedetto(21) moved from his 12th place qualifying position to 5th as the race started under overcast skies after a brief sprinkle passed over the speedway. The cooler temperatures giving the race engines ideal conditions to produce speed.
With 20 laps down in Stage 1, Bowman held the lead with Johnson 2nd. Truex had moved from the 38th and last starting position into 12th. Green flag pit stops began on Lap 27, more so for fresh tires than the need of Sunoco racing fuel. Tire fall-off is huge on this track and pit stops will be dictated by the decrease in lap speeds on old tires.
Intermittent raindrops were spotted on the Fox cameras 30 laps in, but the precipitation was not enough to hamper racing.
After pit stops cycled through it was Bowman back out front, followed by Ryan Blaney(12), Johnson, Almirola, and Kurt Busch. With Bowman holding onto the lead to the end of Stage 1.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
On Stage ending pit stops, Kurt Busch missed his pit, had to go around again, and exited the pits outside of the top 20.
Johnson led the field to the restart, but it was Ryan Blaney(12) who quickly took over the top spot. Blaney, Johnson, and Bowman ran three-wide for 1st place for a lap until Blaney prevailed again.
Rookie of the year competitor Christopher Bell(95) became the first car out of the race as his engine expired on Lap 80. Green flag pit stops began 30 laps into Stage 2. Just as pit tire changes were concluding Bowyer a tire go down bringing out the first non-Stage caution of the race. Inspection of the tire just installed during his pit stop showed Bowyer’s tire changer accidentally hit the valve stem for the inner liner, breaking it off.
With the laps winding down, restarts begin to get more competitive as drivers attempt to gain track position by mixing it up at the drop of the green. Blaney and Johnson remain out front as the rest of the field goes three, four, and five wide jockeying for spots.
Blaney easily drove off to the Stage win with Bowman beating teammate Johnson under the green and white checkered flag.
Stage 2 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||6|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Johnson and Bowman lead the field off pit road from the Stage ending caution stops. Blaney runs 3rd, followed by Truex and Kevin Harvick(4).
Bowman moved to the front and began to pull away from the field. If the race stays green, pit stops may determine the winner as the race has been run virtually without incident.
Green flag stops began with 41 laps to go and soon all of the competitors were coming in for what is likely their last fuel fill up and tire change. Truex’s rear tire changer injured his hand during the stop and the team lost a lot of time completing the tire swap. Truex dropped to the rear of the lead lap while his crewman headed off to the infield care center.
After cycling everyone through pit road, Bowman was back in the lead with Blaney, Kyle Busch, Johnson, and Elliott the remainder of the top five. Bowman’s crew told their driver that the right rear tire they took off of his car was worn down to the cords. A long run to the finish could present a problem for the #88 car.
Blaney drove to the pits with three laps to go, his right rear tire coming apart. Bowman was able to keep his tires from blistering and he cruised to an easy victory of the Busch brothers. Kyle in 2nd and Kurt in 3rd. Johnson finished 7th and Blaney 19th. The win was Bowman’s 2nd on the Cup Series circuit.
|10||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||83||0|
|14||19||Martin Truex Jr.||73||0|
|24||38||John Hunter Nemechek||51||0|
Results of the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway
|14||19||Martin Truex Jr||32.514||200|
|20||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||-1||199|
|25||38||John Hunter Nemechek||-1||199|