Week 5: Auto Club 400

Now that the burnout smoke has cleared from the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California, let’s dive into the highlights from Sunday’s race before we set our sights on Martinsville.

Let’s start off with the obvious story. Ever since Happy Harvick took the checkered flag in Phoenix last week, every one has been asking the question “Will Kevin Harvick win 4 in a row”? After posting some fast speeds in practice, and after qualifying 10th he was positioned to do something that very few in this sport have been able to do. Once the green flag dropped Harvick made his charge to the front. That quickly changed after he slammed the wall on the backstretch of lap 38. The driver of the 4 car was upset with Kyle Larson for getting him loose, and jumped down track to show him his displeasure. After sideswiping the 42 car, Harvick lost control and found the wall doing significant damage. At the end of the day Happy Harvick found himself 6 laps down with a finish in 35th place. In a post race interview, Havrick did accept fault in the incident.

All eyes were on Jimmie Johnson this past week after his long time sponsor Lowe’s announced that they will not be back for the 2019 season. Lowe’s has sponsored Johnson since his debut in 2001. Later in the week the 7 time champion made sure that everyone knew that losing Lowe’s would not keep him out of the car for the remainder of his contract. The 48 team has been struggling on and off the track for some tie now, and many have wondered if the now 42 year old driver was nearing his careers end. After failing to pass inspection, and not qualifying for Sunday’s race, the 48 was forced to the back and started the race back in 33rd place. Johnson quickly moved his car up into the top 10, and stayed there for most of the race. After scoring his first stage points of the season, he finished 9th. After the race JJ was vocal about the teams improvement on and off the track, and hoped this top ten was enough momentum to get them back in victory lane.

After dodging an assault from Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson raced on to finish P2. The day was consistent for the 42 team, as the finished in the top ten for both stages. The runner up spot did however break Larson’s 4 race winning streak for 2 miles tracks. The performance for “not so young gun” Larson has definitely left nobody wondering if they lost their groove.

Another strong presence during the race was that of team Penske. While Ryan Blaney had his ups and down all day long, he still finished off with a solid 8th position. His team mates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano managed to keep themselves in the top ten all day. Logano started 6th place and Keselowski started 11th. They both made appearances in both stages, and walked away in the top 5.

And there was the Toyota’s. It was a strong day for Kyle Busch and his 18 machine, but nothing could keep the defending champ from taking the checkered flag. For the second week in a row Martin Truex Jr sat on the pole, and made sure that people didn’t forget that he is the champ. Truex dominated both stages, and led his 78 into victory lane. Kyle Busch kept pace coming in 2nd in stage one, and 3rd in stage two. Towards the end of the race Busch was able to capture the lead, but eventually lost it to Truex in the closing laps. He eventually finished 3rd. Denny Hamlin who started 25th battled to the top 10, closing out stage one and two in spots 10 and 4. He finished in 6th place, while team member Eric Jones finished 7th.

 

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