NSCS: Stewart wins rain shortened Auto Club 400

March 25, 2012 No Comments

Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

The old adage holds true. Wherever NASCAR goes, the rain is sure to follow. With sustaining rain in the forecast throughout the day, drivers and fans were holding their breath waiting for the magic lap number “101″ to be displayed on the leader board. Anything after that was simply a bonus.

For the first time in the 16-year history of the Auto Club Speedway, rain determined the finishing order of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as Tony Stewart won the Auto Club 400.

Leading 42 of the 129 laps on the day, Stewart was able to take the lead from Kyle Busch on lap 85 and fend off pole sitter, Denny Hamlin, to take his second victory of the 2012 season and the forty-sixth of his career. Stewart is now tied with Buck Baker on the all-time win list.

“I’m really proud of Steve Addington (crew chief) and all of our guys,” said Stewart after the race. “This Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy is bad fast.”

“Tony was pretty excited before the race,” said Addington. “I talked to him last night about the changes we were going to make and he said he was good with that.” Everything just clicks and I’m just so proud of all these guys.They have been working their tails off and bringing great race cars to the race track and I think we can keep doing this if we just keep our heads on straight”

Remarkably, this is Stewart’s seventh victory in the last 15 NSCS races. Dating back to his championship run at the end of 2011 in which he won five of 10 races in the Chase.

Stewart also becomes the first driver two win multiple races this season after winning earlier this month at Las Vegas.

With the first — and only — caution flag of the day coming on lap 123, breaking the record for the most laps run under the green flag consecutively at ACS,  the numerous pit road errors by drivers and crews proved costly with no time to recover with the aid of a caution flag.

“We got a really good staff of guys that work these pit road guys out in the gym,” said Stewart regarding his pit crew after the race. “They do a lot of pit stop practice. Everybody here does. But, I’m proud of our guys…they’re a fun group. They’re one unit when they workout at the shop, then when we get to the race track they’re on the 14 or 39.

“I’ve been with these guys back at the shop for most of the winter, they just bust their butts and we’ve got really good race cars.”

When the caution flag came out, teams were forced with the decision to either bring their driver to pit road in case the race resumed, or to leave them out on the track and hope the rains held out.

Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin all came to pit road, each driver falling significantly farther down the running order than they previously were.

Although Johnson came down pit road, falling from fourth to tenth in the process, he was ultimately saved by the race-ending rain after a hole in the oil cooler caused the five-time series champion’s race to surely be done had the race gotten restarted.

After dominating more than half of the race, the aforementioned Busch was able to achieve a second place finish after making contact with the turn two wall in the closing stages.

Greg Biffle, who finished in the sixth position, holds a seven point lead over Kevin Harvick heading into Martinsville next weekend.

Results of the Auto Club 400 (129/200 laps completed) 

  1. Tony Stewart
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Carl Edwards
  6. Greg Biffle
  7. Ryan Newman
  8. Martin Truex Jr.
  9. Kurt Busch
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Denny Hamlin
  12. Mark Martin
  13. Clint Bowyer
  14. Kasey Kahne
  15. AJ Allmendinger
  16. Matt Kenseth
  17. Juan Pablo Montoya
  18. Brad Keselowski
  19. Paul Menard
  20. Regan Smith
  21. Marcos Ambrose
  22. Jeff Burton
  23. Casey Mears
  24. Joey Logano
  25. Aric Almirola
  26. Jeff Gordon
  27. David Reutimann
  28. Bobby Labonte
  29. Travis Kvapil
  30. David Gilliand
  31. David Ragan
  32. Jamie McMurray
  33. Dave Blaney
  34. Ken Schrader
  35. J.J. Yeley
  36. Landon Cassill
  37. Josh Wise
  38. Michael McDowell
  39. David Stremme
  40. Mike Bliss
  41. Scott Riggs
  42. Reed Sorenson
  43. Brendan Gaughan




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