Auto Club 400

Penalty report from Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to crew chiefs for having one unsecured lug nut on their cars during last weekend’s races at Auto Club Speedway.

There were two fines in the Cup Series. Randall Burnett, crew chief on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 8 Chevy, and Mike Shiplett, crew chief on Cole Custer‘s No. 41 Ford, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series, Dave Rogers, crew chief on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000.

There were no other penalties announced by NASCAR.

Kurt Busch: Aggression ‘ramped up to another level’ at Auto Club

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Two days after he placed third at Auto Club Speedway, Kurt Busch described the aggression by drivers on restarts at the 2-mile track as “ramped up to another level.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver credited the frenetic restarts to the rules package and the stage lengths.

“(With) the package and the draft, you want to be that leader,” Busch said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.” “You want to be the guy putting on the blocks and you don’t want to be caught in that dirty air. (You can’t race anymore with a) mindset of, ‘Oh, this is a 400-miler or this a 500-miler, we’ll take our time.’ With the way the stages are set up this year, it was a quarter, a quarter and a half of a race. Now it’s a third, a third and a third.”

The stage lengths for Sunday’s 200-lap race were 60 laps/60 laps/80 laps, just like last season. But many races this year feature shorter final stages from last season 

“You have three mini-races all in one and you’ve got to gain points from the drop of the green flag,” Busch said. “So everybody’s aggressive, pushing hard. It’s got to be a good show to watch because of how hard everybody’s driving each lap.”

One area Busch noted a change in Sunday is his desire to at least contemplate wanting to race in “dirty air,” which is usually the last thing you’d expect to hear from a driver.

“The race had a feel of when you were in the draft, the lap time felt like it was so much faster,” Busch told SiriusXM. “Because you would go down the straightaway so quick with the draft. Then of course we’d all have to fan out in the corner and grab the fresh air and make sure the handling is underneath the car. Then what’s crazy, on a green flag stop, we’d come in put tires on and go back out. If we were by ourselves, the lap time was so slow. It was dramatically different.

“It was like, ‘I need to be back in the dirty air. At the same time, I don’t want those guys around me in the corners. That takes away that tenth of a second. That quick, small reaction. ‘Is this guy going to go high? Is this guy going to go low?’ Then you end up battling that much harder now in the draft. Bottom line, the draft is twice as intense. By yourself it’s simple, it’s almost wide open, very easy all the way around the track. Two big contrasts that (were) really prevalent at Fontana.”

Busch’s third-place finish Sunday was the best result at Auto Club Speedway by Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 team after three previous sixth-place finishes by Busch and Jamie McMurray.

That couldn’t be said for Busch’s teammate, Kyle Larson, who placed 21st after his early-race incident with Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was bump drafting with Larson heading into Turn 1 when Larson lost control and smacked the wall.

A few hours later, Hamlin posted a video on social media of he and Larson in a grocery store with Hamlin re-enacting the incident on the track with a shopping cart.

Team owner Chip Ganassi took to Twitter to call the the video #badtaste.

“I was confused by why they were grocery shopping together to begin with,” Busch said, adding that the incident on Sunday itself was “weird.”

“That’s what we saw a lot at Daytona, guys bump drafting on the straightaway and getting the other guy sideways and wrecked,” Busch said. “I mean you have to be aware all the time, whether Larson was starting to lift because he was catching (Erik Jones) as quick as he was, or because (Kevin Harvick) was pushing Denny. Those guys were definitely in a hooked up draft on the front straightaway, but for what reason, I don’t know. It just seemed a bit aggressive on my side. I can joke with Denny, yeah, but maybe that (video) was too soon. I would go with #toosoon on that one.”

Jimmie Johnson never missed a lap in 26 Cup starts at Auto Club Speedway

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Jimmie Johnson was really good at Auto Club Speedway.

In fact, he was the best.

It would be easy to just cite his record six wins in 26 starts on the 2-mile track. But here’s another number.

5,906.

That’s the amount of laps Johnson successfully completed in all 26 of his starts on his home rack, from his first Cup win there in 2002 to the seventh-place finish Sunday in his final Auto Club 400.

That’s every lap. Johnson never failed to finish on the lead lap at Auto Club Speedway

It’s far and away a Cup Series record.

According to Racing Insights, the closest a Cup driver has come to that is Tony Stewart.

Like Johnson, he did it at his home track. From 1999-2016, Stewart made 18 starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He completed all 2,895 laps he was eligible for.

The next four drivers in this category all earned their numbers at the same track: Watkins Glen International.

Martin Truex Jr: 14 starts/1,262 laps
Darrell Waltrip: 14 starts/1,221 laps
Carl Edwards: 12 starts/1,084 laps
A.J. Allmendinger: 10 starts/902 laps

JGR puts three cars in top 10 at Auto Club but work remains

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A week after it failed to place a car higher than 15th at Las Vegas, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota put three cars in the top 10, with Kyle Busch leading the way with a runner-up finish in the Auto Club 400.

But that didn’t keep David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, from noting that race winner Alex Bowman “schooled us.”

Bowman led 110 of 200 laps and won Stage 1 on the way to victory lane.

Meanwhile, Toyota cars led just once for a total of three laps. That was when Martin Truex Jr. – who started at the rear after failing pre-qualifying inspection three times – battled with Bowman in the middle of the final stage.

That’s after Truex led Toyota’s only lap last week at Las Vegas.

Busch only finished second after Ryan Blaney had to pit for a corded tire with three laps to go. After starting 17th, Busch placed 10th in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2.

His runner-up finish is his first top 10 of the season.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Busch told Fox. “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 (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.”

Behind Busch were Denny Hamlin in sixth and Erik Jones in 10th.

Hamlin was running in fourth on Lap 140 when his No. 11 Toyota brushed the wall exiting Turn 2 and he dropped to seventh.

“We’re still slow,” Hamlin said. “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.”

Jones’ top 10 is his best finish of the season after he placed 18th at Daytona and 23rd in Vegas.

He called the race “a step in the right direction.”

“I don’t think any of us really had race-winning speed,” Jones said. “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.”

After making his way to the front, Truex’s status as a contender ended with a slow pit stop on Lap 160 when a tire changer’s hand cramped up. He finished 14th.

Meanwhile, the rookie campaign of Leavine Family Racing’s Christopher Bell remains stuck in neutral after three races.

After wrecking out of the Daytona 500 and placing 33rd in Vegas following a crash, Bell was the only driver who failed to finish the race Sunday. His day ended on Lap 80 when he went to the garage after a bolt from another car struck a hole in the oil cooler on his No. 95 Toyota.

Gaunt Brothers Racing and Daniel Suarez had their best outing of the season  after failing to make the Daytona 500 and suffering a mechanical issue coming to the green flag in Vegas.

Suarez had an uneventful day and placed 28th, two laps down.

Alex Bowman prepared to get ’88’ tattoo after Auto Club win

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Alex Bowman may be visiting a tattoo shop in the near future and he can blame it on earning his second career Cup Series win.

Upon emerging from his No. 88 Chevrolet Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, the Hendrick Motorsports driver quipped to Fox that he “promised my buddy Aaron we would all get matching 88 tattoos if we won, and I think I have to go get a tattoo now, but that’ll be a good time.”

The Aaron he as referred to was Aaron Gillespie, drummer in the rock band Underoath.

The bet originated before the Daytona 500 two weeks ago.

“Pretty much everybody from Underoath was at Daytona,” Bowman said later in the media center. “We’ve been talking about it for the last two weeks. Apparently I have to get a neck tattoo, which I’m not really sure that that’s going to happen or not, but yeah, next time we’re all together, I guess we’re all going to get tattoos.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a Cup driver has gotten inked after a race win.

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon went under the needle in 2018 the night he won the Daytona 500.

Dillon got a tattoo – based on his winner’s hat – located in a spot where “You’ll never be able to see it.”