Tag:Auto Club 400
Posted on: March 28, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 12:12 pm
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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 28, 2011 11:09 am
 

Video of the Day: Fontana post race

Posted by Pete Pistone


Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: March 27, 2011 10:22 pm
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Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:56 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 10:07 pm
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Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:43 pm
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Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:28 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 10:29 pm
 

Fontana winner Harvick post race comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Auto Club 400 winner Kevin Harvick, team owner Richard Childress and crew chief Gil Martin met the media after their win Sunday at Auto Club Speedway:

At this time we welcome into the media room Kevin Harvick, winner of today's race.

Kevin, this is your first Cup win at Auto Club Speedway.  You just led one lap.  Tell us a little bit about that.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, we led the right one, that's for sure.  But our car was really fast all day on the long runs.  The restarts weren't exactly what we needed to have.

But as everybody started to stay out those last two times, at least the guys we were racing, our car was able to get some air pressure built up in the tires and we were able to really fire off there right off the bat up top.

We were able to keep pace with them for a few laps.  When they started racing side-by-side, we made up the ground.  Kyle started to get loose.  Drove around him.  Everything worked out going into turn three and four.  A good day for us.THE MODERATOR:  We also welcome Richard Childress, car owner.  This is also your first win here.  An interesting stat, so far this season in the competition, first time since 2005 we've had five different winners in the first five races.

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  That just tells you about the competition of NASCAR.

I felt good about the restart with Kevin because I knew his car was fast on the long runs.  I knew if they didn't get too far out in front of us, we'd have a shot.  All we needed was for him to get side-by-side, start racing.  He just made the right move going into three up there.  Jimmie gave him enough room, he took advantage of it, won the race on that last lap.

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up now for questions.

Q.  Kevin, you talked many times about the lessons you learned here last year trying to chase Jimmie down at the end.  How did that help you today?       

KEVIN HARVICK:  I knew I had a little left in the tank on the last restart.  I didn't want the fenders to be knocked in and not have a chance.  There were several times where I was probably a little too conservative, but with the high line up there, you don't have much room for air     

I knew if I was going to hit the wall today, it wasn't going to be till turn four coming to the checkered.  It was tight, but it was the right time to go.  We were able to keep pace.  I really had a good run coming off of turn two, and he rolled up in front of me, so I just laid on the back bumper all the way down the back straightaway, gave him a couple seconds to think about what was going to happen going into turn three.  The reason I did that, I just needed the one lane up top.  I knew what I was going to do.  I was hoping he would just roll through the middle of the racetrack or on the bottom or something.  So it all worked out.          

Q.  Does what happened last year and/or what happened yesterday make this win any sweeter?            

KEVIN HARVICK:  I'll take third on Saturday and first on Sunday any day, I can tell you that for sure (smiling).            

Last year I made a mistake and gave the race away with two laps to go.  I was able to not make any mistakes.  They didn't make any mistakes on the car all weekend long.  I was at least going to get to the white flag lap this year and make sure we had something left         

Q.  Richard, you have some rare engine problems the last couple races.  Today Kevin was so stout.  Did you find out what had happened last couple of races?  How confident now after today's race are you?

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  We did have a problem with a couple of our engines, which is the same thing we're running.  Trust me, I told Kevin in here, If I have to worry about it, you guys have to worry about it.  I told them at the driver's meeting I was concerned.  I was more worried about that than how the cars were going to run.  I knew the cars would run real well.

We're running what we had last year.  There's some changes.  We think we know what it is.  Whatever we can do, I know Gibbs has had a similar problem, we'll be working with them, try to tell them what we think our problem was, maybe it will help them as well.

Q.  In the past you mentioned that Jimmie had a horseshoe somewhere.  This time he had a bumper somewhere.  Was the car getting better on the pit stops or was it a good car to begin with?  How do you account for this gradual progression?

KEVIN HARVICK:  We knew our car was good yesterday.  Really we only made one adjustment today on the car.  I think it was the second pit stop.  It was just a matter of it all playing out correctly for us as far as not coming down to a four- or five-lap restart.  Luckily we had a couple cycles on the tire and that helped us as we got going.

Q.  Kevin, if there hadn't have been the last caution where you were able to make up ground, do you have a lucky horseshoe up your ass now?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I hope it stays right on up there.  I'll be more than happy to go ahead and tote the thing along (laughter).

Anyway, it's just one of those things:  when things are going your way, we've had four weeks that we hadn't exactly had everything go right, but our cars have been fast.  Today we had everything go right and our car was fast again.

As long as we keep our cars running the way that they are, we can overcome things and we can hopefully capitalize on days when our car is fast enough to win.

Q.  It's become sort of almost your signature of not leading 10 laps but being in position to go for the win at the right time.  Why is that?  Is it just sort of a coincidence or is that kind of your style?

KEVIN HARVICK:  I don't know.  I wish you could tell me.  I wish we could go out there and wear them out one day and not have to worry about waiting till the last lap.  Does seem we kind of wait till the end to really get going.

I think, you know, for me, I always was taught to race, just go fast enough to put yourself in position to be around at the end and make sure your car still has all the fenders and tires and everything still underneath it.  When it's time to go, you have a little something left, your car is hopefully fresher than the guys around you.

Probably somewhat of a bad habit that I have, but I guess it works out.

Q.  Kevin, in talking about the bumping, Jimmie said his goal going into three was he wanted to go down low, but by bumping him you gave him too much speed where he didn't feel he could make the corner.  When you were talking earlier, you said he were trying to clear out a lane up high.  You both had two different agendas but it worked out for you.

KEVIN HARVICK:  Yeah, you know, I was after one thing and that was to run the very top of the racetrack.  I was hoping that he thought he was going to be going too fast to run the top of the racetrack and get loose.  I guess in hindsight he was looking for the bottom or the middle or whatever he was looking for.

I just wanted to roll in as easy as I could and lay back to the throttle, go into the center of the corner, hopefully be able to leave it down on the exit.  It all played out okay.

Q.  Did Gil make any changes to the car on the last stop, adjustments?

KEVIN HARVICK:  No, we didn't make any adjustments all day except for the second pit stop.

Q.  Kevin, you've been critical of the crowds here before.  What did you think about the crowd today?

KEVIN HARVICK:  The crowd looked pretty good.  With the weather the way it was this morning, I thought it was great.  Like I said on Friday, sometimes markets just seem that one race is what it's needed for.  I'm pretty proud about the fact that they had a good crowd today.  They did a good job this weekend.

Q.  How much did yesterday's race play into the fact the top seven guys didn't come in on the last caution?

KEVIN HARVICK:  A lot, yeah.

Q.  How much did yesterday's finish play into any decision about not to pit on that last caution?

GIL MARTIN:  It was looking a whole lot like what happened yesterday.  I think one of the major things that made me feel reasonably confident about it was how Tony performed when everybody stayed out.  He posted some of the best laps of the race out there, clean air.  I think the tires being pumped up deserved a lot of speed there.

THE MODERATOR:  At this time we would like to welcome Gil Martin, crew chief for the No. 29.  We'll open it up for questions again.

GIL MARTIN:  I can follow up on that, too.  If we would have pitted, Richard would have killed me (laughter).

RICHARD CHILDRESS:  I looked at what Tony did.  Great call (smiling).

Q.  Gil, last week in Bristol, a different speedway than here, was the tire problem any issue during the race or was everything on the safe side concerning the tire?

GIL MARTIN:  The tires were perfect this week.  It seemed like every set was balanced pretty well.  There wasn't any issues as far as having a loose set or a tight set or anything like that.  Goodyear did a really good job on this tire they brought here.

No issues like Bristol.  We overcame what happened at Bristol pretty well.  They brought a good tire here.  There was no problem.

Q.  Kevin, did anybody ask you if you could take us through that last lap and what was going on in your mind, especially when you were pushing Jimmie down the backstretch.

KEVIN HARVICK:  For me coming to the white, I had a great run off of turn four and was able to get right on him.  Rolling into one, my whole goal was to not give it away.  If I could make the pass, fine.  If not, just don't overdrive it getting into the corner, make sure you get the pedal down as soon as you can and roll through the middle, not get in the fence, not screw anything up.

I rolled through there really good, was able to get back to the throttle on the top and had a good run.  He slid up in front of me.  I knew if I went low that I was not going to be -- that was bad for me, the bottom was.  So I just pushed him, hoping that I just needed that one lane to open up up top, and it opened up.  We were able to roll through there.

My whole theory was not to drive it in again and get back to the throttle, so it all worked out.

Q.  Heading into Martinsville next weekend, do you think this momentum is going to carry with you or do you still have to go back to the shop and work on a few things?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, our short track stuff was really good for Martinsville last year.  A lot of that should carry over to this year.  Momentum never hurts.  I always tell people, you have to take the highs and lows, treat them pretty much the same.

Bottom line is, you can't ever shake off the confidence that winning gives you.  Hopefully we can carry that over into Martinsville.

Q.  Kevin, you talk about not wanting to make a mistake.  I don't think any of the other guys made a mistake.  Talk about what it's like to win a race, compared to the way with Kyle won yesterday?

KEVIN HARVICK:  Well, the 18, he got loose.  He made a couple mistakes, took himself out of contention there at the end.  That's what I didn't want to do. Maybe his car was just so loose that he was trying to do all he could do to stay up there.

Our scenario played out better than Jimmie's did with our car being able to run as high as it was and carry as much speed as it was.  I just didn't want to be the one to screw it up like I did last year.

Q.  Kevin, it's probably too easy to make too much of beating a guy like Jimmie Johnson at a place like this where he's been so good.  Does it carry any more personal significance to you?

KEVIN HARVICK:  It doesn't hurt, that's for sure (smiling).

But I keep going back to last year.  Last year taught me a lot about what patience and the things I needed to do to beat a guy that doesn't make mistakes. In order to do that, you can't make mistakes yourself.

This race one year ago is what helped us win today, by being patient, not taking yourself out of the race, having something there at the end until it was time to go.

But, yeah, I mean, those guys are five-time champions, won a ton of races.  We feel as a team we can race right with 'em, but so does everybody else. There's a lot of other guys that think the same thing, but nobody's beat them in five years.  We've just got to keep chipping away at it.

 

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:09 pm
 

Johnson, Busch post Fontana comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

At this time we welcome into the media room Kyle Busch.  Kyle, you finished third in today's race.  You currently sit fourth in points, 11 points behind Carl Edwards.  Take us through the last few laps.

KYLE BUSCH:  Yeah, I mean, today was a really, really good race for us anyways.  We had a really good racecar.  Can't thank the guys enough, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, chassis shop, bodies, it was a whole effort this weekend, especially the team guys this weekend, being able to prepare the backup car and get it out on the racetrack in time to get some qualifying laps and in enough time to have a good racecar yesterday in practice and then again today.

Just real, real unfortunate and frustrating and disappointing all in one that we weren't able to seal the deal today.  Just come down to the last few laps there with Jimmie first and then Kevin got into it, too, with us.

You ask a little bit more from your racecar at the last moments, it doesn't have anything left to give.  You're essentially a sitting duck waiting for those guys to drive by you.  Couldn't get any more out of the car.  That was it.  It would push, get loose, that was all we had.

THE MODERATOR:  At this time we're joined by Jimmie Johnson.  Jimmie finished second in today's race and currently sits fifth in points, 14 behind Carl Edwards.

Jimmie, talk us through the last few laps of today's race.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  For me, we worked hard all day long to get our car to handle well.  We made some smart adjustments when we were deep in the pack.  But getting track position really was everything.  Once we had track position, got near the top five, the car didn't necessarily drive a ton better, but we had a lot more speed and had a shot to win.

Good day.  Wish that we could have won the race.  But I was really loose, as well, knew that the two tires were coming with the 29 car.  Looking back, maybe if I could have got by Kyle a lap earlier, it would have made the difference.  But he was rolling on the top really, really fast.

Hate that we finished second.

Q.  Kyle, it was hard to tell on TV, did you actually get back up into the wall?

KYLE BUSCH:  No, I never got in the wall till the last lap coming off of four.  Figured I had nothing else better to do.  Knocked the right side off the car.  The guys had to fix it.

No, I knew I was too far behind.  Shouldn't have been trying.  But that's me.  Never give up.

Q.  Jimmie, on that last lap going into three, Harvick was right up on your bumper, gave you a push.  How did that impact things?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Him being that close and kind of breaking the plane of our bumper, certainly affects how my car drove.  When he to my bumper down the back, I felt like if he turned into the bottom and followed me, I was in trouble.  I kind of wanted to run the bottom coming to the checkered flag.  Felt like that was the place to be.

I decided to stay at the top.  When I went off into three with the extra speed, had my car kind of sideways getting in there, I couldn't get a real good arc into the corner.  I heard that he was looking outside near the middle of the corner.  Once he got there and broke the plane of my bumper, spotter said, Outside, I was dead in the water.

Q.  By getting on your back bumper, he dictated how you were going to go into that corner?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Just because of the speed and the push that he gave me, where he gave me, I would have gone into the corner and missed the bottom, gone into there with too much speed.  Him being close certainly affected my car.  He did exactly what he needed to.

I was on the loose side.  If I was in his shoes, I would have done the same thing.  The closer you can get to the car in front of you when they're loose, the harder it is for that guy to use the power.  You have a good shot to pass them.

Q.  Kyle, how close did you feel you had this locked up?

KYLE BUSCH:  It's never over till it's over.  That's why it's called racing.  That's why you have to wait till the checkered flag to see what happens.  For all the fans that went home early when I was leading, with 20 to go, they missed a good finish, an exciting finish, with those two guys being able to battle it out on the last lap.

Yeah, it's disappointing, frustrating, kind of a letdown a little bit with the guys.  They worked awfully hard today.  We had such a great racecar.  I thought we had a really good shot at it.  If the race would have went green, we had a better long-run car than a short-run car, I felt like.  Just wasn't meant to be.

Q.  Do you feel like the last caution hurt you?

KYLE BUSCH:  Certainly, certainly.  Certainly the last two did, definitely.  Just bunching the field back up, getting everybody closer to us.  We got some adjustments on that one pit stop.  Kind of helped our car.  That last one really hurt, getting everybody back to us, especially those guys that pitted that got two tires and came through.  I don't know if Harvick did or not.  We're still debating on that.

You were kind of a sitting duck.  It was just a matter of time before they got there.  You were hoping you could hold them off at least eight laps, nine laps, however many we had left green.

Q.  Jimmie, were you expecting that bump on your bumper at the end or did that take you by surprise?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  No.  Coming off of two, I ran a lower line than he did.  He was up around the top of the wall.  I had assumed he would get to me down the back at some point.  I could see he wasn't favoring towards the bottom.  So I knew something was coming.  I knew if I was in his shoes, I would be right on the guy's bumper getting in the turn.  He gave me a little shove.  It worked out well for him.  Like I said earlier, it took away my option to use the bottom.

As close as he was, it just had me on the top of the track, to the center of the corner, and worked out for him.

Q.  How much did yesterday's finish factor into everybody kind of staying out on that last caution?

KYLE BUSCH:  I think today Tony earlier in the race actually dictated more than what yesterday had.  Tony stayed out there.  I think they made a mistake, had a miscue on the radio.  He stayed out with eight laps on his tires earlier in the race.  We all pitted.  He hung right with me that run.  That whole run he was on my rear bumper like six car lengths away.  I think that dictated a lot of it.  We only had nine laps to go.  All you had to do was try to fight off the guys behind you for nine laps.

It seems that whenever we get in that position, it hurts us a little bit.  We'd rather be the ones chasing rather than being the chaser.

Q.  Jimmie, Earl was telling you when Harvick was on your bumper that he was on your bumper.  When he was pounding you like that, how hard is too hard to pound somebody on a two-mile track?  You expect that at Bristol.  You said you would have done the same thing in his position.  Was it all fair on the last lap?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Oh, yeah, without a doubt.  I don't think he got into me all that hard.  I actually put my head back against the headrest and thought it was going to be a lot harder than what it was.

He did it well.  He did his job.  I didn't do my mine holding him off.  That was racing.  That's the cool thing about our cars, especially the way they're designed now.  You can lean on each other at 190 and still make it back.

Q.  Do you know what the mistake was that he made last year that you were able to hold him off?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Last year, he had the same line working really well.  That last lane up by the fence, I just don't have it up there for whatever reason.  He was catching me up there last year and got into the wall and slowed himself down, hurt his car and slowed himself down.  This year he got it done.

I think he was smarter from it and kind of knew how to run that line better.  I think he was up there most of the day as well.  He had a good rhythm going for the top.

I just didn't have much luck up there.  I was already a lane higher than I normally run coming into the checkered trying to protect the top some.  I thought I closed off the outside, but he still found a way to get up a lane higher.

Q.  Kyle, were you worried at all once you saw what happened with Denny?  Can you talk about your thoughts about what's going on at Joe Gibbs.

KYLE BUSCH:  When Denny had his problems, I wasn't sure what it was.  I never really got a full communication of what happened.  I wasn't too worried.  If something happens, it happens.  If it doesn't, it doesn't.  You kind of play it like that.  Really that's all there is to it.

It's unfortunate obviously.  It's a big blow I'm sure to the organization, what we're doing with the engine shop and everything.  It's not that you'll find something and maybe get it fixed in a week.  But we certainly wish we would have been able to get it done by now.  I know Mark is doing the best he can.  The Toyota guys at TDR trying to figure out what's going on.  Mine made it fine today.  Joey's made it fine I think today, as far as I know, right?  They changed engine, but they made it all day today.  You can start in the back and make your way through sometimes.

We'll work on it.  That's all I can say.  I really don't know what happened.

Q.  Kyle, the engine situation.  To be on the safe side, will your team also look now at your engine to make everything is fine for the next race? 

KYLE BUSCH:  Our engines always go back to the shop, get torn down and looked at.  Mine will too.  We'll see how mine looked after today's race.  I never had any issues.

I imagine everything on mine will look okay.  I never heard a pitch change or heard anything different than crisp all day.  I don't imagine anything's wrong with mine.

Q.  Did the shorter race make any difference with strategy?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  It seemed like a 500-mile race to me today, I don't know about you (smiling). 

KYLE BUSCH:   No. I wish it was a 300-mile race, to be honest.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I wish it was 399 (smiling).

KYLE BUSCH:  I didn't notice any difference, to be honest with you.  I felt like an extra 50 laps wouldn't have changed a whole lot.  It would have definitely changed the pit strategy at the end.  We would have came down and got tires instead of staying out because there were only a few laps to go.  There would have been about 40 to go.  We all would have been short on gas anyway.  There would have been another pit stop after that pit stop.

I think the length was fine.

Q.  Jimmie, any particular reason why you chose the lower line going into that final corner?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  That was pretty high for me.  The higher I went today, my car just got up out of the track and really wouldn't handle well.  I needed to run a lower line, kind of let the lateral forces hold the car down, make the car turn

The higher I went, kind of the g-forces come out of the car when you roll up out of the top.  My car would never turn.  Once it would finally start turning, it would snap loose.  Just didn't work well.

Looking back, I mean, I wish I could have -- I should have maybe tried to stop my car getting into three and ran in the middle like I had been all day long.  I tried to go up a lane higher than I was on the previous lap, tried to protect the top, but Kevin still found a way by.

Just didn't have enough to hold him off.

Q.  Jimmie, a day like this where you're kind of scrambling around making adjustments, end up being second, is that the type of finish ends up winning championships?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  At the end of the year, it does definitely.  Right now it's about wins.  We all want wins.  We want max points, also bonus points, things like that.  Today was all about a win.

I mean, there is the flipside.  When Kevin was alongside of me off of four, I could have maybe tried to squeeze the door, do something a little stupid there.  I'm like, If I spin out here and finish 15th because I'm down on the grass, can't get the car fired up, it would just be stupid.

KYLE BUSCH:  What the hell, damn it.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  That's what happens at 35 and 10 years in the sport.

What did you do off the four?

KYLE BUSCH:  I got in the wall.  I told you I was bored (smiling).

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  You weigh those things out.  Within reason today it was all about running the race, especially when we got to the front.  We ran around in 10th to 15th for most of the day.  Then got in the top five, stabilized, had a stop or two to make our car better.  From there had a chance to race for the win.

All in all a good day.  It's like kissing your sister, running second - and I don't have a sister (smiling).

Q.  Jimmie, you were on a show called Breaking In on FOX this weekend.  Explain what you would rather do in life, act or race cars?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I prefer my job.  No offense.

Q.  Do you think actors are pansies?

THE MODERATOR:  Okay, next question.

Q.  Jimmie, coming out of Bristol you had expressed concern for Hendrick Motorsports' two-mile program as a whole and said this race wouldn't be easy on the Hendrick organization as whole.  How do you feel now?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  We're getting there.  I mean, my teammates, I'm not sure where they finished.  I ran with them most of the day in the teens.  We still have work to do as a group.

At Vegas we started really bad and improved the car during the race.  Today we started fair and made the car better.  We're going the right way and we're finishing the weekends probably where we should start when we get here.

We're getting there.  It's just going to take a little while to get that stuff sorted out.  I'm excited about our short track stuff.  Hopefully we'll get this big track stuff under control.

Q.  What did you think about the crowd today?

KYLE BUSCH:  Not bad.  They took some banners away in turn one.  They needed room for something.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Actually, I thought it looked okay.  We always want a full grandstand.  After a couple years, especially if we come back and the weather is like it's supposed to be, we'll probably have a better showing.

But I thought today was decent for sure.

KYLE BUSCH:  If the race was Wednesday, it would be really good.  Supposed to be 80.  That probably scared off a few of them.  Judging the crowd off of previous California events, I thought it was really good today.

 

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 7:39 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 7:59 pm
 

Auto Club 400 Speed Read



By Pete Pistone

RACE WRAP 

Unless you tuned in for the final ten laps of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 you were most likely not impressed. Truth be told the first 190 circuits of Sunday’s fifth race of the Sprint Cup Series season won’t exactly be remembered for scintillating action.

Complete Auto Club 400 results

As has been the case at the two-mile Auto Club Speedway for much of its existence, cars tend to get string out around the track and a single file parade is more the norm than side-by-side racing.

Except last October, when the Sprint Cup Series put on what many believe was the nest NASCAR race at ACS since the sanctioning body first started coming to the Southern California facility in 1997.

That race, shortened from the traditional 500 to 400 miles, carried an intensity level from start to finish that saw four and sometimes five wide racing all around the speedway and a sense of urgency like never seen before at the track.

So with that as a backdrop, most expected Sunday’s return engagement to be more of the same.

It was not.

There really wasn’t any racing for the bulk of the 400-mile affair until all hell broke loose at the end and Kevin Harvick was able to pull of a thrilling win over Jimmie Johnson at the checkered flag.

That finish thankfully erased at least somewhat the boredom that preceded it.

That will help Auto Club Speedway have something to build on for another year since with only a single date now on the NASCAR calendar officials have twelve months to generate interest – and ticket sales – before the series returns in March of 2012.

After last week’s glaring sight of empty seats in Bristol, it was a bit of a relief to see ACS about three-quarters filled on Sunday, which is not a bad turnout for the track that hasn’t had an easy time of selling tickets.

The hope was one date and a later spot on the calendar in March would generate better interest – and weather – for ACS. Mother Nature didn’t quite cooperate with gloomy skies and cool temperatures most of the weekend but overall turnout was respectable.

Now if fans can forget about the three hours of dull that came before the stirring finish perhaps next spring will see even more grandstand population.

RISERS

Kevin Harvick

Has had to overcome adversity in the early part of the season and come back to just to score decent finishes. Didn’t need to hurdle any challenges on Sunday except Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson and did so in convincing fashion with a very fast race car and a stirring closing rush to take the checkered flag. Proved he’s not someone you want in your rear view mirror when the laps are winding down.

Jimmie Johnson

Has set the bar so high he’s sometimes forgotten. Although Johnson does not have a win in the first five races of the season he’s been every bit as consistent as in his five championship seasons. After knocking down a couple of third place finishes he came back to almost win for the sixth time at ACS Sunday but still comes out of his home track with a very respectable second place.

Brian Vickers

Definitely a confidence-building Top 10 run on Sunday and perhaps a bit of a statement to those who questioned whether Vickers had lost anything while away tending to his medical condition last year. He along with Team Red Bull teammate Kasey Kahne were pretty stout Sunday, which bodes well for the team’s intermediate track program as the season progresses.

FALLERS

Denny Hamlin

Another week and another disappointing outing for Hamlin, who this time was the victim of an electrical problem that plagued last year’s championship runner-up and ended with a 39th place finish, not the run he was looking for after coming home 33rd last week in Bristol. The bigger issue may be the ongoing engine woes at Joe Gibbs Racing, which has plagued the team since the start of the season and shows no signs of letting up.

Trevor Bayne

Things have not gone very smoothly for the young Daytona 500 winner since his glorious day to start the season. Hit the wall several times on Sunday and continues to struggle getting his arms around the Sprint Cup Series side of the equation especially at mid-sized tracks like Fontana and Las Vegas.

Jamie McMurray

Last year’s big time winner hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts. More often than not has had a middle of the pack kind of car and that was again the case on Sunday when McMurray finished 23rd. Needs to find that magic from 2010.

RADIO WAVES

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs) 

“It seemed like a 500-mile race.” – Jimmie Johnson

"Guys, I've got no brakes, so you're going to have to come catch this thing." – Kevin Harvick after taking the checkered flag.

"I just couldn't get any more out of the car. That was it. That was all we had.” – Kyle Busch

"Our engine department definitely has to go to work.” - Denny Hamlin

RACE RATING 

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s Auto Club 400 a three – and believe me it was all for the ending. The rest of the race was duller than dull. Coming off last October’s rip roaring Auto Club Speedway event I was especially surprised with just how strung out and boring things turned out to be. But I can’t ignore the finish, which not only saved the race for the most part but also might be enough to get NASCAR a little jolt of publicity heading to race number six of the season.

DOWN THE ROAD

The Sprint Cup Series goes back short track racing next Sunday to the Wrigley Field of NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway. The bumping and banging that many fans felt was missing from the series last half-mile race at Bristol two weeks ago will be in full supply on the tight paper clip-shaped Virginia track.

 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com