Blog Entry

Auto Club 400 Speed Read

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

By Pete Pistone


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.


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.


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.


(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


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.


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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Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: March 28, 2011 9:26 am

Auto Club 400 Speed Read

It is sad when you have to rely on a caution to make a race look like it was competive.  I was able to watch the race in less than 45 min with the DVR (slowing only for cautions, lead changes, restarts,  and pit stops).  Looks like another one of those years!!!  And what a dumb a@@ move to be out west then come east for a race then back out west for 1?  What idiots came up with that schedule? 

Since: Mar 4, 2008
Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:20 am

Auto Club 400 Speed Read

nice happy face at the end there JEOFF, u should know who this is, redneck racing is and will always be as boring as these 10000 word essays, shorten this track  all around  we need more high speed crashes like the movie say rubbing is racing just rub alittle harder

Since: Nov 20, 2007
Posted on: March 27, 2011 10:12 pm

Auto Club 400 Speed Read

Yeah yeah yeah.......same ole scribe stuff about "boring" racing.  It's a 2 mile track like Michigan.  It's not Martinsville, it's not Richmond, it's what it is.  I live in socal and have been to every race at Cali except 1997-99 and 2001, so yeah I do get tired of hearing all the whining about the "boring" racing.  However I have been to many other tracks on the NASCAR circuit and each has it's own personality.  I went to Ontario back in 1978.  I was 10, so I am not sure of my memories of the racing put on that day at that track.  I went to Richmond in 2002.  Awesome short track and Tony won, so I loved that.  I went to Vegas and Darlington in 2003.  Vegas was still flat then and more an Indy car track then and Kenseth beat Jr. by 9 seconds.  Yeah, kinda boring, but it was still a race.  The Darlington race I was at was the one that Craven beat Ku. Busch by .002 secs.  Of course that rocked.  Took a little time off from going to another track and then I went to Martinsville for the spring 2009 race.  Simply awesome track to attend.  But that's no surprise, since it's a short track afterall. 

Today's race at Cali was not a barn burner and I will watch the TV version of it later, but there was racing further back in the field.  But towards the end, Tony was chopping into Kyle's lead and to me, that is when things started getting interesting.  I believe Tony had a car that could have possibly caught Kyle near the end had the 71 and 47 cars not created cautions and the race stayed clean and green.  Of course we'll never know, but Tony was closing fast before that final green flag stop. 

Michigan is banked at 18 degrees and Cali at 14 degrees, so the action at Michigan is usually a little bit better because of that extra banking.  However, Dale Jarrett once said this about racing at Cali.  The fans wouldn't know the difference if we entered turn 1 at 180 mph instead of 205 and we put on our best racing when we're going slower.  That is a very true statement.  Even Jimmy Spencer has said, on many occasions, that the speeds need to be reduced in the Cup cars to improve the racing.  Michigan used to have quite a bit of side by side finishes and racing when the speeds were slower and the horsepower was less.  Today with speeds basically you see the same kind of racing there as you do at Cali.  It's because it's a big, wide, 2 mile track.  Unless the speeds are slower, the fields will get strung out.  It is what it is. 

Not every race is going to be a barn burner.  They weren't in the past and why is it that we expect it to be so every race now?  There's much less of a chance for great overall racing at a 2 mile track compared to a half-miler, 1 miler or any smaller track.  That just makes sense.  Bigger track means more room for 43 cars.  Smaller track means less room for 43 cars and more chance for contact.  Just common sense.  And as for Redneck asking why we even go to this track once a year.  Get a grip dude.  Once a year is fine.  I never petitioned for 2 races a year.  We're back to 1 and I am okay with that.  You can be okay with us having 1 race a year too.  Taking all of our races away would be simply wrong.  I believe it would be great if there were actually 36 different tracks to race the 36 race schedule at. 

By the way, that ending was awesome today.  It wasn't due to mystery debris cautions.  It was due to a hard wreck by Bobby Labonte and a wall slap and spin by Andy Lally.  Andy's kind of caution still sort of annoys me.  The type where there's a spin and he hits no other car and gets the car righted and there's a caution.  But NASCAR calls those kind of cautions with regularity now, so I have come to (sorta) accept them. 

Last thing I'll say is this:  get a grip Pistone and quit being such a negative nelly.  It gets so old.  Just quit acting like every race is and has ever been scintillating and this one just was the worst of all time, until the finish saved it.  Too many people just have way too high of expectations anymore.  It's a 2 mile track, it's big, we need perhaps 90 cars in the field to make it really a great race at all times and we're not gonna start 90 cars anytime soon.  Peace out   Jeff   Wink

Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:17 pm

Auto Club 400 Speed Read

I wouldn't even give that race a 3 for the ending.  While the end was exciting, at most the race gets a 2.  It amazes me this track is even still on the schedule.

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