What drivers said after Fontana

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Here’s what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway:

Alex Bowman – winner: “How about that, California? I grew up quarter midget racing here, maybe 20 minutes from Pomona Valley. Went there every week. Made a lot of great friends there. I know a lot of you are here today. Man, so cool for Cincinnati. Seems like every time they are all on the car we run really good. Promised my buddy Aaron we would all get 88 tattoos if we won so I think I have to get a tattoo now. It will be a good time. It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks to (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and all the guys. Greg made a lot of good calls today. We were up front when it counted.

“(Is the second win almost as special as your first career Cup win?)? Yes, for sure. The first one was a real enjoyable experience and then we sucked for six months. We started this year so strong. I feel like I’ve got a lot on my side that I’m doing better. My life has gotten a lot more organized than it was then. Greg and the guys are just on point. We’ve unloaded the last two weeks and I don’t think we have had to make a change to the race car from the way it came off the truck. That makes my job a lot easier. I’m just so proud of this team. Everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick horsepower under the hood. The whole shop back home. They work their butts off. We’ve put a lot of effort in this new car and it is obviously working out really well.”

Kyle Busch – finished 2nd: “We have a lot of work to do. Guys did a great job here though just trying to work on it and trying to make everything we could out of it all day long, all weekend long. Interstate Batteries Camry wasn’t a second place car, but thankfully we got a good finish out of here and try to get some points. Guys are doing all they can, I know along with everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development). I appreciate all the hard work, we just have to get a little bit better. We finished the end of last year so strong, I don’t know what we’re missing here. Obviously, it’s a little bit of something here and maybe a little bit of something in a few different areas, but overall good car today.

“(How would you sum up your day?) Slow, we were slow. Just didn’t have the speed overall today for some reason. Then, there at the end felt like the tires were worn out at the last bit of the race.  Just frustrating day for us with our Interstate Batteries Camry. Give it up to my guys and everybody at the shop, they’re certainly working hard. I just feel like we’re kind of missing it a little bit – here, here, here and here and those things kind of add up and drag you down a little bit. Overall, great day I guess coming home with second and getting good points out of here.”

Kurt Busch — finished 3rd: “We did really good to balance our Monster Energy Chevy on short run speed, and long run speed. Being able to maneuver on re-starts is something that I’ve been harping on. Making sure we get better when we’re in dirty air. And to come away with a third place finish, that gains a lot of points back for us and I feel really good about the way the car handled this weekend. So, whatever we can do to baseline this, is what we’ve got to do moving forward.

“(Does it feel good to have the Chevys so strong? Bowman was real fast) As soon as his car unloaded, he was super fast. We were all trying to figure out what it was. But he did the job. As a team, they did their job. And he executed to put a Chevy in Victory Lane, so congrats to Alex Bowman.

“(You finished third. What else did you need?) Oh, a little spray can of grip. If I could spray some grip on her, we’d be right there. We just had different trends. The car would be wide-open for five laps and I’d be really fast after Lap 20. So, if I can narrow it down, I just need to work on that transition from wide-open to that partial throttle and then be able to maneuver through the draft.”

Chase Elliott — finished 4th: “(Was it a solid day?) Yeah, it was decent. I feel like we were better than we’ve been, which is good. Not good enough to win, obviously, but better than we’ve been. So, we’ll take it and move on. Alex (Bowman, race winner) was dominant today. He was by far the best. I was good for our company and hopefully we can keep it rolling. He was super-fast. So, we’re happy for those guys. They did a really good job.”

Brad Keselowski – finished 5th: “We had a good run today with the Discount Tire Ford. We ran fifth, which isn’t bad. There were some highlights. We were able to drive through the field there a couple times. The car had a lot of long run speed. We never had the speed (Bowman) had through the whole weekend but we fought really hard and scored a lot of points today to dig us out of a hole we had from early on in the season. There were a lot of positives. I think we executed really well today. I probably could have done a little better on one of the early restarts, but other than that the team did really good.”

Denny Hamlin – finished 6th: “We’re still slow. Our cars handled okay. If we don’t have a draft, we’re just run over. It’s tough because I feel like we’re getting beat on throttle time, but we’re also just getting murdered down the straightaways. Just need more horsepower, more downforce and less drag. If we can have all those, we’ll be better.

“(What happened between yourself and teammate Martin Truex Jr. during the race?) We’re just fighting like cats and dogs. I think I was on the bottom there on the right rear and it just dumps air so much on my right rear spoiler that caused me to plow tight and kind of shove up into him. It’s just a bad combination.”

Jimmie Johnson — finished 7th: “This team is going in the right direction. I know in my heart what I am capable of and what this team is capable of. It’s just taken a little bit to get the right people in the right places, and rebuild and get this Ally Chevy exactly where it needs to be. We just couldn’t adjust this car on the pits stops quite enough to get the tight out of it. It was really competitive and racy at the start of a run and then we would fade at the end. At the end, I thought I was going to blow a tire, I think I had cords on the fronts and I thought I wasn’t going to finish the race. So to salvage a top 10 out of it and two thirds in the stages, so we are headed in the right direction. I want to thank the fans here in California. There have been some great vibes all weekend.

“(How do you feel about today?) A lot of neat things happened today. The card is full, that’s for sure. I was pretty bummed about that last run. We got super-tight. I think I was pretty lucky to finish. I think one of the front tires was getting ready to blow out. We just didn’t stay on top of the adjustments needed to keep the car free and going, but we still had a great day and ran up front and led some laps and raced for the lead. But the longer the run, the tighter the car.

“(You are close to a win, but the closer you get the more you want it, right?) Oh, without a doubt. I’m a competitor at heart and I want to win races and be up front and get it all done. So, I was pretty disappointed the way it finished and ended up seventh. But it’s a good sign of where we’re heading.

Aric Almirola – finished 8th: “I have to clean up some things and we have to clean up some things as a team. I thought we had a top-five car and we just kept giving away all of our track position. We have to do better, but we are building and we got a top 10 and we will take that and move on. I think we have a lot of potential. I think Bugga (crew chief Mike Bugarewicz) and all the guys did a great job with the car and I felt like we had a top 10 car going into today and we proved that. We ran in the top 10 most of the day but I feel like with track position and a few other things going a little better, a little smoother, we could have had a lot better result. Overall, it was still a decent day and we will take the points and move on.”

Kevin Harvick – finished 9th: “We just didn’t have a very good weekend. This place wasn’t very good for us last year either. I am just having a hard time getting the car to be balanced all the way through the corner. I think as you look at it, we didn’t have a ninth-place car either, we just had a great day on pit road. Those guys did a phenomenal job on pit road and that kept us in the game.”

Erik Jones – finished 10th: “It was a step in the right direction. I don’t think any of us really had race-winning speed. I think Kyle (Busch) got some good track position on that restart and was able to maintain.  We got shuffled back and kind of had to come back from 15th. I don’t know, I think we’re off. We didn’t have anything for the 88 (Alex Bowman) or anything like that. We have to get faster, but I think we learned a lot. Just have more to get.  Don’t know how to get there, but we have more to get.”

Tyler Reddick — finished 11th: “I’m really proud of this No. 8 I Am Second team’s effort this weekend and glad that the results show it with our 11th-place finish today. We had a plan coming into the race on how we wanted to have our Chevrolet set up, and it worked out in our favor. The No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet was snug all day, especially in Turns 1 and 2, but we continually improved on the handling throughout the race. It was a lot of fun being able to race in the top five for a portion of day, and I learned a lot while up there. I wish we could have finished one spot better to claim our first top 10 of the year, but my right rear tire completely came apart on the final lap, so I had to back off to make it back to the finish line. As a team, we’ve been continually improving each week so far this season, and I’m looking forward to continuing the momentum next week at Phoenix Raceway.”

Cole Custer — finished 18th: “My guys did a good job today in the pits. We need to be better, but it was a solid day. We’re still very new to working with each other. I wish I could’ve gotten them a result better than 18th, because the car was better than that, but we’ll keep working on it together as a team.”

Ryan Blaney – finished 19th: “We led a little bit and ran pretty good, we just corded a right rear at the end. We lost the lead there at the beginning of the third stage and kind of got swallowed up and the 88 got away and got gone. We needed to be in front of him. It is just the way it goes sometimes.”

Austin Dillon — finished 24th: “Auto Club Speedway has always been a strong track for the Dow Racing Team so we had high expectations of performing well here in our Dow Coatings Chevrolet. We didn’t qualify on the pole like we have in past races here, but that was by design. We set the car up to race well. I think we would have had a different outcome today if it would have been a little warmer outside. We had really good forward drive but were too tight taking off didn’t have the speed we needed. Still, we battled hard. We probably would have finished 16th but we shredded a right-rear tire and had to pit with two laps to go and ended up 24th. We’ll shake it off and go on to Phoenix Raceway.”

Daniel Suarez — finished 28th: “It was OK. It was a decent day. We pretty much maximized what we’ve got. We’ve got to keep working to get more speed out of the racecar. We’re one more race further along as a team, and everything was pretty smooth from beginning to end, no major dramas. We’ll go on to Phoenix and try and get that much better there.”

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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.