Alex Bowman dominates en route to Auto Club win

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Alex Bowman dominated, leading 110 of the 200 laps to win Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

It was the second career Cup win for the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, adding to last year’s triumph at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I’ll take it, after last week, I wish we would have had three (career wins),” Bowman told Fox. “We’ve been so good to start this season. We started the season very poorly over the last two years and it just means the world to show up at the race track and have the first run be almost perfect and just be able to fine-tune the race car. (Crew chief) Greg Ives has made the right calls.

“We’ve got to go win a bunch more, but man, it feels good to have one this early.”

Bowman — who finished 24th at Daytona and 13th at Las Vegas — now has one more thing to do to celebrate his win.

“I promised my buddy Aaron we’d get matching 88 tattoos if I won, and I think I have to go get a tattoo now, but it’ll be a good time,” Bowman said.

MORE: Results, point standings after Auto Club 400

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Kyle Busch told Fox. “We tried to work on it and make everything we could all day long, all weekend long. It wasn’t a second-place car but thankfully we got a good finish out of here. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here.”

Ryan Blaney was on track to potentially finish second but was forced to pit on Lap 197 of the 200-lap race when he suffered an issue with his right rear tire. Blaney led 54 laps and  finished 19th.

“Racing happens, just a cord in the right rear there at the end and gave up a good finish,” Blaney told Fox. “It just didn’t work out in our favor. Just an unfortunate end to the day again.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Alex Bowman

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Kyle Busch (second) and Kurt Busch (third) both earned their first top-10 finishes of the season. Kyle finished 34th at Daytona and 15th at Las Vegas, while older brother Kurt was 33rd at Daytona and 25th at Las Vegas. … Tyler Reddick was the highest finishing rookie (11th).

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Midway through the first stage, Denny Hamlin forced Kyle Larson into the wall, causing moderate damage to Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet. Larson pitted and and fell off the lead lap while repairs were made and was never a factor from there. Larson finished 21st. … Cup rookie Christopher Bell’s woes continue. He finished last in the 38-car field due to bolt coming off another car and knocking a hole in his car’s oil cooler, following finishes of 21st at Daytona and 33rd at Las Vegas.

NOTABLE: Each of the three manufacturers have now won a race this season: Toyota (Daytona), Ford (Las Vegas) and Chevrolet (Auto Club). … Making his second start for the injured Ryan Newman, Ross Chastain finished 17th, an improvement from his 27th place finish last week at Las Vegas. … There were no post-race inspection issues, although the No 8 (Tyler Reddick) and No. 41 (Cole Custer) each had one unsecured lug nut.”

WHAT’S NEXT: The three-race West Coast swing concludes at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

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eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier to be streamed online

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The qualifying race for Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway will be streamed on enascar.com/live, NASCAR announced.

The qualifier features Xfinity, Truck and regional series drivers looking to advance to the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race that will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App. At this time, four drivers from the qualifier will advance. That number could change depending on any late additions or drops to the race featuring Cup drivers.

MORE: Roush, Greg Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

MORE: North Wilkesboro to make its comeback on iRacing 

MORE: eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series reminds Clint Bowyer of being a rookie

The qualifier is scheduled to take place at 11:02 a.m. ET and have 34 drivers battling for those four transfer spots.

The qualifier will be 30 laps at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The race will have no cautions.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 10:55 a.m., lasting five minutes, followed by the race.

Last week, six drivers advanced from the qualifier to the main event. They were: Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ryan Truex.

Drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s qualifier at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway are (with car number):

02 – Spencer Boyd

7 – Justin Allgaier

08 – Jeb Burton

15 – Brennan Poole

16 – Justin Haley

22 – Austin Cindric

23 – Sam Mayer

26 – Tyler Ankrum

27 – Ruben Garcia

29  – Kaz Grala

29a – Trevor Bayne

33 – Anthony Alfredo

35 – Todd Gilliland

36 – Jesse Iwuji

40 – Ryan Truex

45 – Ty Majeski

46 – Chandler Smith

50 – Jeffrey Earnhardt

52 – Stewart Friesen

53 – Joey Gase

54 – Kyle Weatherman

63 – Scott Stenzel

68 – Brandon Brown

74 – Sheldon Creed

78 – Ryan Ellis

80 – Joe Graf Jr.

81 – Christian Eckes

90 – Alex Labbe

93 – Myatt Snider

98 – Chase Briscoe

99 – Harrison Burton

TBD – Derek Kraus

TBD – Drew Dollar

TBD – JJ Yeley

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

Roush, Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

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After four years, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle are getting the band back together … digitally.

Roush Fenway Racing announced its former driver will compete in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a digital Texas Motor Speedway.

Like he did in the Cup Series from 2003-2016, Biffle will pilot a No. 16 Ford in the race (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the No. 16,” Biffle said in a press release. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.

“We are running a really cool Castrol scheme on the car. I think it’s going to show up really well. My plan is to log a ton of practice time leading up to the race, so hopefully we can have a strong showing and you’ll see a lot of the Castrol green and red on the broadcast.”

This will be Biffle’s iRacing event debut.

After parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the 2016 season, Biffle returned to NASCAR last year for a one-off Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which he won.

NASCAR teams impacted by North Carolina stay at home order

Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP
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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay at home order for the entire state of North Carolina, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is for 30 days.

The move impacts all NASCAR teams based in North Carolina.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Gov. Cooper said in afternoon news briefing.

MORE: N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

MORE: North Carolina stay at home order

The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

The order also states that among the definitions for an essential business and operation is “Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements. Businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining Social Distancing Requirements:

a. Between and among its employees; and

b. Between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County, which are home to such race teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, were already under a stay at home order through April 16.

By the end of the week, more than 20 states will have issued stay at home orders, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.