Auto Club Speedway

May 1 in NASCAR: Greg Biffle beats oil, heat and gas problems for Xfinity win

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Greg Biffle didn’t anticipate having to pit with 10 laps to go in the May 1, 2004 Busch (Xfinity) Series race at Auto Club Speedway, but he did so while running second to his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth.

“I saw the fuel pressure jump around a bit,” Biffle said according to The Associated Press. “The last two Busch Series races here, I could have won, but I ran out of gas or had to pit for gas and nobody else did. It was a flashback.”

The potential fuel pressure issue piled on to problems his No. 60 team had during the 150-lap race.

The team had to add 3 1/2 quarts of oil to the car throughout the event due to a mystery oil pressure problem.

Then with 50 laps to go, Biffle’s cooling system malfunctioned. The race was being held in 90-degree heat.

“It was like somebody flipped a switch and I had a hair dryer in my face,” Biffle said.

Biffle executed a fast pit stop on Lap 140 for his splash of gas, but returned to the track in eighth place, nearly a lap behind Kenesth.

But over the next few laps every driver in front of him had to pit for fuel.

Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick each stalled as they tried exiting their pit boxes after their stops.

“That explains it, I didn’t know how I got so far ahead of those guys,” Biffle said.

Biffle took the lead with three laps to go and cruised to the checkered flag for his second win of the year.

Also on this date:

1955: Buck Baker won a 133-lap race at the Charlotte Speedway dirt track. During the race, Herb Thomas was in a violent wreck on Lap 41 that saw him thrown from his car, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” Thomas was taken to the hospital with a fractured leg, bruises, a concussion, a lacerated arm and shoulder injuries.

1964: LeeRoy Yarbrough capitalized on Jimmy Pardue’s mechanical failures to claim his first of 14 career Grand National wins in a race at Savannah (Georgia) Speedway.

1983: Richard Petty edged Benny Parsons by a couple of car lengths to win at Talladega for his 197th Cup Series win. Phil Parsons, making his second career start, was involved in a horrific 11-car crash on Lap 71 where he flipped multiple times in Turns 1-2, including landing on the back of Ricky Rudd’s car. After being pulled from his car by photographers located near the crash, Parsons was taken to the hospital with a broken shoulder blade.

1988: Five years after his violent wreck, Phil Parsons led 52 of 188 laps to score his only career Cup Series win out of 203 starts.

1993: Ward Burton led twice for 259 of 300 laps to win a Xfinity Series race at Orange County (N.C.) Speedway.

April 29 in NASCAR: Rusty Wallace honors Dale Sr. after win on 50th birthday

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On April 29, 2001, the Cup Series held its annual race at the 2-mile track formally known as California Speedway.

Just over two months had passed since the death of Dale Earnhardt in a crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and feelings surrounding the tragedy were still fresh on what would have been his 50th birthday.

Rusty Wallace, one of his long-time rivals and friends, made sure Earnhardt got his due after holding off Jeff Gordon to get the win.

There were no celebratory burnouts by Wallace. Instead, a crew member met him on the track and delivered an Earnhardt flag. Wallace drove around the track as it waved outside his window.

It was sadly a familiar sight.

Just over eight years earlier in 1993, Wallace had won the Cup Series race at Bristol following the death of Alan Kulwicki in a plane crash earlier in the week. Afterward, Wallace performed Kulwicki’s trademark “Polish Victory Lap.”

In November, Wallace and Earnhardt would honor not just Kulwicki, but Davey Allison, who died in July from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash. After Wallace won the season finale at Atlanta and Earnhardt clinched his sixth title, the two performed the “Polish Victory Lap” as Wallace held an Allison flag and Earnhardt held a Kulwicki flag.

“It was kind of an emotional feeling,” Wallace told Fox after his 2001 win. “(Earnhardt) was such a great friend of mine and such a great family. … I really would have liked to have had Richard Childress riding with me that lap.”

Also on this date:

1951: Fonty Flock led every lap to win a Grand National race at North Wilkesboro. Lou Figaro, driving in relief of Dale Williams, finished ninth in a car that had its hood stuck in the upright position, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.”

1962: Bobby Johns led 430 of 500 laps to win at Bristol by six laps over Fireball Roberts. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom,” Roberts finished second after he lost 12 laps in the pits making repairs, only to make up six of them under green flag conditions.

1984: Geoffrey Bodine beat Ron Bouchard by six seconds at Martinsville to score his first Cup Series win and also the first win for Hendrick Motorsports. It came in the team’s eighth Cup race.

1990: A week after his brother Brett earned his first career Cup win at North Wilkesboro, Geoffrey Bodine won at Martinsville to earn his first win for owner Junior Johnson. It was the first time brothers won consecutive races since Donnie and Bobby Allison did it in 1978.

April 28 in NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson earns first Cup win

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It did not take long for Jimmie Johnson to leave his mark on the NASCAR Cup Series.

Only 13 starts into his career, Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team were winners.

The victory occurred on April 28, 2002 at Johnson’s home track of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Johnson started fourth and would lead 62 of the race’s 250 laps. He took the lead for the final time on a restart with 14 laps to go when he passed Bill Elliott. That was after a pit stop where crew chief Chad Knaus elected to take fuel only as other teams changed two tires.

Johnson would hold off Kurt Busch over the final three laps to take the checkered flag.

“This is unbelievable,” Johnson told Fox in Victory Lane. “This is awesome to do in California in front of my hometown. … It’s going to sink in as the days come, right now it’s just cool.”

Johnson was quickly joined in the celebration by teammate and co-owner of the No. 48 team, Jeff Gordon.

“Guess we hired the right guy!” Gordon declared.

Johnson’s victory was the fifth by a rookie driver since 1999, following Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick. Ryan Newman would join that list later that year.

Johnson went on to win two more times in 2002. He has accumulated 83 wins and seven championships during his career. In late 2019, he announced 2020 would be his final full-time Cup season.

Also on this date:

1957: Art Watts started from the pole and led all 100 laps on his way to winning a Grand National race at Portland (Oregon) Speedway. The win was his only victory in 19 career starts. Watts made five starts in 1957 and started from the pole in each race.

1974: Cale Yarborough led 421 of 450 laps to win at Martinsville (the race was shortened by 50 laps due to an energy crisis). Richard Petty finished second despite having to pit 13 times during the race, including once under green for a flat tire, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” Bobby Allison finished third four laps behind Yarborough and Petty.

1990: Chuck Bown led all 200 laps from the pole to win a Xfinity Series race at Lanier Speedway in Gainesville, Georgia.

1996: Sterling Marlin won at Talladega in a Cup race that saw Bill Elliott break a leg in a wreck where his No. 94 Ford went airborne on the backstretch. Later, Ricky Craven’s No. 41 Chevrolet tumbled into the Turn 1 catchfence in a large multi-car wreck. Elliott would sit out until July Daytona race. Craven qualified third the following week at Sonoma, but was relieved by Ron Hornaday Jr.

2007: With a last-lap pass of former teammate Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte won the Xfinity Series race at Talladega to score his final NASCAR national series win.

March 23 in NASCAR History: The Kyle and Kyle Show at Auto Club Speedway

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If your name was Kyle, you had a good weekend in Fontana, California, in March 2014.

On Saturday, March 22, Kyle Larson got it rolling by pulling off an upset win in the Xfinity Series race over Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Larson passed Busch for the lead with five laps to go and then held off four straight dive-bomb pass attempts by Harvick in Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.

On Sunday, March, 23, it came down to Larson and Busch.

In an overtime finish, Busch and Larson navigated their way through a wild restart and passed the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates of Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the last lap.

Kyle Busch held off Larson’s pass attempt in the final turn and cruised to his second straight Auto Club 400 win.

A rookie that year, the runner-up finish was Larson’s first career top five. He wouldn’t earn his first win until 2016 at Auto Club’s sister track, Michigan International Speedway.

Also on this date:

1969: Bobby Allison won the Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He led the final eight laps after David Pearson dropped out with an expired engine. Allison won over LeeRoy Yarbrough by four laps.

1975: Richard Petty beat Buddy Baker in a one-lap dash to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was Petty’s third win in six races to start the season and he’d win the following race at North Wilkesboro for his third consecutive victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. revisited the race on his old show “Back in the Day.”

2003: In a two-lap shootout, Dennis Setzer beat Jon Wood in a Truck Series race at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California. It would be the final visit to the half-mile track by the Truck Series after holding nine races there.

March 19 in NASCAR history: Austin Dillon steals Xfinity win at Auto Club in 2016

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On March 19, 2016, Kyle Busch looked well on his way to winning his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series race to begin the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 133 of 200 laps in a race at Auto Club Speedway.

Then on Lap 200, moments after taking the white flag, Busch’s left-front tire gave out. That allowed teammate Daniel Suarez to speed by in Turn 2.

But Suarez’ time in the lead was short lived. His No. 19 Toyota had barely exited the turn when it ran out of gas.

With Suarez falling off the pace on the apron, Busch was able to drive his wounded car back to the point position entering Turn 3.

With Busch limping along, Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet pounced in Turn 4. Dillon darted to the outside of Busch and scrapped the wall as he navigated a small hole left by Busch.

Dillon drove away to lead his only lap of the race and to claim his seventh career Xfinity win.

“I was worried about our fuel, stayed focus on that the whole time,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “(Busch) tried to screw me there at the end, but didn’t work out for him, did it?”

Busch would bounce back to win the following week at Texas. He would go on to win 10 times in 17 Xfinity starts that year.

Also on this date:

1995: After a five-year break from the track, David Green wins in the Xfinity Series’ return to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

2000: Ward Burton ended a five-year winless streak in the Cup Series with a victory at Darlington Raceway. It was his second of five career wins, all with Bill Davis Racing.