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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Greg Zipadelli to serve as Clint Bowyer’s interim crew chief

Greg Zipadelli
Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
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Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, will serve as the crew chief for Clint Bowyer in Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, the team confirmed Monday.

Johnny Klausmeier will miss Saturday’s race, serving a one-race suspension because Bowyer’s car was found to have two lug nuts not safe and secure after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bowyer enters Saturday’s race at Michigan (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 14th on the playoff grid. The top 16 will advance to the playoffs. Six races remain in the regular season.

Klausmeier will be able to resume his role for Sunday’s Cup race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan.

Zipadelli, who won Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 with Tony Stewart, will reprise the interim role he played earlier in the season in the Xfinity Series.

Zipadelli served as Chase Briscoe‘s crew chief for four races after crew chief Richard Boswell, the team’s car chief and an engineer were each suspended four races because ballast fell out of his car. Briscoe won three of the four races with Zipadelli as his crew chief.

Team Penske extends contract with Brad Keselowski

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Team Penske announced Monday that New Hampshire winner Brad Keselowski has agreed to a contract extension. Keselowski’s contract was to expire after this season.

A media release from the team did not state the length of the extension for Keselowski, 36. The Associated Press reported that the deal was for one year through the 2021 season.

Keselowski, who won the 2012 Cup title, has been with Team Penske since 2010, winning 31 Cup and 33 Xfinity races during that time.

“We are pleased that Brad will continue to be a part of our organization,” said Roger Penske in a statement. “Brad not only demonstrates talent and skill on the track, but his leadership away from it and his dedication to our partners have had a huge impact in making our organization one of the best in NASCAR. I am proud that we will be able to able to keep the continuity we have with Brad, Ryan (Blaney) and Joey (Logano) and look forward to competing for more wins and championships together.”

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire

Said Keselowski in a statement: I have been racing for Team Penske for the vast majority of my NASCAR career and to continue to represent Roger Penske, our partners and his organization is exactly where I want to be. We’ve accomplished a lot of things together over the years, including winning both the Cup and Xfinity Championships, the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Now, my goal is to win the Daytona 500, another championship and continue to build Team Penske into the best NASCAR team in the garage area.”

Logano is signed to at least 2022. In March, Blaney signed a multiyear extension with Team Penske.

Keselowski’s victory Sunday was his third of the season. He’s scored at least three wins in each of the past five seasons. Keselowski is second  in the points to Kevin Harvick.

GMS Racing, Brett Moffitt to honor Jimmie Johnson with special scheme

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GMS Racing and sponsor Plan B Sales have created a special paint scheme to honor seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on championship weekend in November at Phoenix Raceway.

Brett Moffitt, the 2018 Truck Series champion, will pilot the the specially adorned truck at Phoenix.

“Brett has been a part of the Plan B family and a great ambassador for our company over the years,” said Brent Powell, owner of Plan B Sales in a statement. “Last year we partnered with Brett and GMS for the Phoenix race, but this year is different with it being the season finale and Jimmie’s final (full-time Cup) weekend. It truly is an honor for us to showcase this throwback for Jimmie and hopefully see Brett clinch his second championship in our truck.”

Said Moffitt of Johnson in a statement: “I have looked up to him, leaned on him and had the utmost respect for everything he has done for our sport. This is the coolest paint scheme I’ve had in my career because of how much respect and admiration I have for Jimmie. I’m rooting for him to go out on top, and maybe we’ll both get the chance to celebrate a championship in Phoenix later this year.”

Johnson has announced this will be his final full-time Cup season. He drove a Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar in a July 28 test on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Johnson has expressed a desire to race different vehicles after this season.


Cup playoff grid after New Hampshire

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William Byron holds a 15-point lead on rookie Tyler Reddick for the final playoff spot in the Cup playoff grid after last weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Six races remain in the regular season.

Byron finished 11th at New Hampshire, one spot behind Reddick, but Byron extended his advantage on Reddick by five points. Byron scored six stage points, while Reddick scored none.

MORE: Could New Hampshire be a sign of things to come in Cup?

MORE: Winners and losers from New Hampshire 

Jimmie Johnson fell to 25 points behind Byron for the final spot in the Cup playoff grid. Johnson overcame a spin after contact with Clint Bowyer to run in the top 10 but lost four spots in the final 20 laps to finish 12th.

“Good fight today guys,” Johnson told his team on the radio after the race. “Overcome a lot of (stuff) again.”

The series heads this weekend to Michigan International Speedway for two races. The Cup Series races there at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Ten of the 16 playoff spots have been secured by drivers who have won at least one race this year: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and rookie Cole Custer.

Here is a look at the Cup playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Drivers shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Cup playoff grid.


Cup playoff grid New Hampshire