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NASCAR - Sprint Cup - Auto Club 400 Preview

From The Sports Network

 
DATE: Sunday, March 27th
SITE: Auto Club Speedway (1997) -- Fontana, California
TRACK: two-mile oval - 3,100 feet (Frontstretch); 2,500 feet (Backstretch)
CAPACITY: 92,000 (Grandstand Seating)
ANNUAL: 15th
TELEVISION: FOX
ANNOUNCERS: Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds
RADIO: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio
START TIME: 3 p.m. (et), Green Flag: 3:16 p.m. (et)
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jimmie Johnson
RUNNER-UP: Kevin Harvick
POLE WINNER: Jamie McMurray (Finished 17th)
LAPS: 200
MILES: 400
QUALIFYING RECORD: Kyle Busch, 2005 (188.425 m.p.h.)
RACE RECORD: Jeff Gordon, 1997 (155.012 m.p.h.)
TOTAL PURSE: $6,021,218 (2010 figures)
PAYOUTS: 1st Place - $333,103; 2nd Place - $248,651; 3rd Place - $213,265
 
2010 Finish
FinishDriverStartFinishDriverStart
1Jimmie Johnson76Kurt Busch12
2Kevin Harvick67Matt Kenseth20
3Jeff Burton148Clint Bowyer3
4Mark Martin109Tony Stewart16
5Joey Logano1910Greg Biffle35
2010 Auto Club 400 Facts and Figures
AVERAGE SPEED: 141.911 m.p.h.
TIME OF RACE: 3 hours, 31 minutes, 24 seconds (500-mile race)
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.523 seconds
CAUTION FLAGS: 6 for 30 laps
LEAD CHANGES: 26 among 13 drivers
POLE WINNER: Jamie McMurray (183.744 m.p.h.)
Past Auto Club 400 Winners (Starting Position) Car -- Speed
2010 -- Jimmie Johnson (7th) -- Chevrolet -- 141.911 m.p.h.
2009 -- Matt Kenseth (24th) -- Ford -- 135.839 m.p.h.
2008 -- Carl Edwards (9th) -- Ford -- 132.704 m.p.h.
2007 -- Matt Kenseth (25th) -- Ford -- 138.451 m.p.h.
2006 -- Matt Kenseth (31st) -- Ford -- 147.852 m.p.h.
2005 -- Greg Biffle (5th) -- Ford -- 139.697 m.p.h.
2004 -- Jeff Gordon (16th) -- Chevrolet -- 137.268 m.p.h.
2003 -- Kurt Busch (16th) -- Ford -- 140.111 m.p.h.
2002 -- Jimmie Johnson (4th) -- Chevrolet -- 150.088 m.p.h.
2001 -- Rusty Wallace (19th) -- Ford -- 143.118 m.p.h.
2000 -- Jeremy Mayfield (24th) -- Ford -- 149.378 m.p.h.
1999 -- Jeff Gordon (5th) -- Chevrolet -- 150.276 m.p.h.
1998 -- Mark Martin (3rd) -- Ford -- 140.220 m.p.h.
1997 -- Jeff Gordon (3rd) -- Chevrolet -- 155.012 m.p.h. (race record)
 
NOTE: Formerly called California 500 by NAPA (1997-1999), NAPA Auto Parts 500
(2000-02), Auto Club 500 (2003-10). Race changed from 500 to 400 miles
in 2011.
 
Last Race Results
RACE: Jeff Byrd 500 (March 20th)
SITE: Bristol Motor Speedway -- Bristol, Tennessee
MILES: 266.5
LAPS: 500
WINNER: Kyle Busch
RUNNER-UP: Carl Edwards
THIRD: Jimmie Johnson
FOURTH: Matt Kenseth
FIFTH: Paul Menard
POLE WINNER: Carl Edwards (Finished 2nd)
TIME OF RACE: 2 hours, 53 minutes, 55 seconds
AVERAGE SPEED: 91.941 m.p.h.
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.946 seconds
CAUTION FLAGS: 10 for 57 laps
LEAD CHANGES: 17 among 8 drivers
LAP LEADERS: C. Edwards 1-17; P. Menard 18-52; Kyle Busch 53; D. Gilliland
54-57; R. Newman 58-83; Kyle Busch 84-91; M. Truex Jr. 92-154; K.
Harvick 155-191; J. Johnson 192-247; Kyle Busch 248; J. Johnson
249-269; Kyle Busch 270-341; J. Johnson 342-346; Kyle Busch 347;
J. Johnson 348-429; Kyle Busch 430-473; C. Edwards 474; Kyle
Busch 475-500.
Auto Club 400 Entry List
CarDriver, HometownCar/Name
00David Reutimann (Zephyrhills, FL)Toyota/Aaron's
1Jamie McMurray (Joplin, MO)Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops
2Brad Keselowski (Rochester Hills, MI)Dodge/Miller Lite
4Kasey Kahne (Enumclaw, WA)Toyota/Red Bull
5Mark Martin (Batesville, AR)Chevrolet/GoDaddy.com
6David Ragan (Unadilla, GA)Ford/UPS
7Robby Gordon (Orange, CA)Dodge/Speed Energy
09Landon Cassill (Cedar Rapids, IA)Chevrolet/Rydex
9Marcos Ambrose (Launceston, Australia)Ford/DeWalt
11Denny Hamlin (Chesterfield, VA)Toyota/FedEx Office
13Casey Mears (Bakersfield, CA)Toyota/GEICO
14Tony Stewart (Columbus, IN)Chevrolet/Office Depot
16Greg Biffle (Vancouver, WA)Ford/3M
17Matt Kenseth (Cambridge, WI)Ford/Crown Royal
18Kyle Busch (Las Vegas, NV)Toyota/Interstate Batteries
20Joey Logano (Middletown, CT)Toyota/Home Depot
21Trevor Bayne (Knoxville, TN)Ford/Motorcraft/Quick Lane
22Kurt Busch (Las Vegas, NV)Dodge/Southern California AAA
24Jeff Gordon (Vallejo, CA)Chevrolet/Drive to End Hunger
27Paul Menard (Eau Claire, WI)Chevrolet/Menards/Serta
29Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield, CA)Chevrolet/Jimmy Johns
31Jeff Burton (South Boston, VA)Chevrolet/Caterpillar
32Mike Skinner (Susanville, CA)Ford/VA Mortgage Center
33Clint Bowyer (Emporia, KS)Chevrolet/Cheerios/Hamb. Helper
34David Gilliland (Riverside, CA)Ford/Taco Bell
36Dave Blaney (Hartford, OH)Chevrolet/Tommy Baldwin Racing
37Tony Raines (LaPorte, IN)Ford/TBA
38Travis Kvapil (Janesville, WI)Ford/Long John Silver's
39Ryan Newman (South Bend, IN)Chevrolet/U.S. Army
42Juan Pablo Montoya (Bogota, Colombia)Chevrolet/Target
43A.J. Allmendinger (Los Gatos, CA)Ford/Best Buy
46J.J. Yeley (Phoenix, AZ)Chevrolet/Red Line Oil
47Bobby Labonte (Corpus Christi, TX)Toyota/Little Debbie
48 *Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon, CA)Chevrolet/Lowe's
56Martin Truex Jr. (Mayetta, NJ)Toyota/NAPA
60Todd Bodine (Chemung, NY)Toyota/Big Red
66Michael McDowell (Glendale, AZ)Toyota/HP Racing LLC
71Andy Lally (Northport, NY)Chevrolet/Eco-Fuel Saver
78Regan Smith (Cato, NY)Chevrolet/Furniture Row Racing
83Brian Vickers (Thomasville, NC)Toyota/Red Bull
87Joe Nemechek (Lakeland, FL)Toyota/NEMCO Motorsports
88Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Kannapolis, NC)Chevrolet/Amp Energy/Nat'l Guard
99Carl Edwards (Columbia, MO)Ford/Aflac
 
* - Defending champion
 
Leading Contenders (Finish the last nine years)
Driver200220032004200520062007200820092010
Jimmie JohnsonWon16th2nd2nd2nd3rd2nd9thWon
Kevin Harvick35th29th9th6th29th17th8th38th2nd
Jeff Burton19th19th26th19th5th4th12th32nd3rd
Mark Martin5th17th11th7th9th5th16th40th4th
Joey Logano---------------------26th5th
Kurt Busch2ndWon23rd3rd16th7th13th5th6th
Matt Kenseth20th9th4th26thWonWon5thWon7th
Clint Bowyer------------14th6th19th19th8th
Tony Stewart29th41st16th17th43rd8th7th8th9th
Greg Biffle13th18th33rdWon42nd15th15th4th10th
Brian Vickers------29th21st18th10th11th10th12th
Carl Edwards---------5th3rd29thWon7th13th
Kyle Busch---------23rd10th9th4th3rd14th
David Reutimann---------------33rd23rd14th15th
Jamie McMurray---5th15th4th6th37th22nd16th17th
Paul Menard---------------20th27th37th18th
Jeff Gordon16th11thWon30th13th2nd3rd2nd20th
Brad Keselowski------------------------21st
Denny Hamlin------------12th11th41st6th29th
Dale Earnhardt Jr36th6th19th32nd11th40th40th39th32nd
Kasey Kahne------13th40th4th38th9th12th34th
Ryan Newman14th42nd3rd9th20th12th10th28th36th
Juan Pablo Montoya---------------26th20th11th37th
Martin Truex Jr------------15th42nd6th27th39th
 
Mover of the Week
Kurt Busch - Started in 20th position and finished 7th
 
Sports Network Selections
Pick to Win - Matt Kenseth
Darkhorse - Marcos Ambrose
 
Last Week's Pick to Win (Kyle Busch) - Finished 1st
Last Week's Darkhorse (Clint Bowyer) - Finished 35th
 
NOTES:
It took eight years, but Jimmie Johnson finally repeated his 2002 performance at Auto Club Speedway by defeating Kevin Harvick for his 48th career Sprint Cup title. Johnson, who had posted six straight top-10 finishes prior to the win, including four seconds, dominated the field, leading eight times for a whopping 101 laps in posting a 1.523 second victory. Johnson took the lead for good with 24 laps remaining. Seeking his fourth win in the past five years, Matt Kenseth placed seventh after starting 20th on the grid. Pole sitter Jamie McMurray finished 17th.

Kenseth won this race for the third time in four years back in 2009, as he raced to victory. Kenseth reclaimed the lead with 39 laps remaining and held on to defeat Jeff Gordon by 1.463 seconds. Kenseth, who started 24th, led three times for 84 laps, as he posted his 18th career Sprint Cup title. Pole sitter Brian Vickers never led the race and finished 10th.

Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Gordon battled over the final 40 laps, but it was Edwards who came out on top in the spring 2008 race at California, as he won under caution for his eighth career Sprint Cup title. Edwards, who started ninth, took the lead on lap 211. However, Gordon moved in front on lap 221. Pole sitter Johnson, who led on nine occasions for a race-high 76 laps, reclaimed the advantage just one lap later. But Edwards took over again on lap 238 and then held it for the win, despite the accident on turn 4 of the final lap. The race, which started late Sunday, was completed the next day due to inclement weather.

Dominating. That's the only word that can describe Kenseth in 2007 at California. Kenseth, who became the first back-to-back winner of this race, led seven times for a whopping 133 laps to capture his 15th career Sprint Cup title. Gordon, the pole sitter, finished less than a second behind Kenseth. Gordon led just two laps.

Gordon is a three-time winner of this race, including the inaugural year in 1997. Gordon's streak of three straight top-three finishes ended last year with a 20th place result.

In 2006, Kenseth crossed the finish line just 0.338 of a second ahead of Johnson for his 11th career Sprint Cup title and first of that year. Kenseth, who led four times for a total of 40 laps, reclaimed the lead on lap 219 of the 251-lap event and held on for the win. Greg Biffle, who led for a race- high 168 laps, finished 42nd due to engine problems, while pole sitter Kurt Busch finished 16th.

After winning in 2002, Johnson has recorded a 16th place finish in 2003, three consecutive runner-up finishes, a third in 2007, 2nd again in 2008, ninth in 2009 and a win last year at his home track. The El Cajon, CA-native has an average finish of 5.3 in 16 races there. In all, Johnson has five wins and 12 top-10 finishes.

Auto Club Speedway, formerly California Speedway, has the distinction of laying claim to the world's fastest two-mile oval. During the 2001 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota CART Championship Series qualifying, Marlboro Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran set a new speed record with an average lap of 241.428 m.p.h. That speed topped Mauricio Gugelmin's mark of 240.942 m.p.h. set here in 1997. The speedway is 52 miles east of Los Angeles and 60 miles west of Palm Springs. During the 1997 season the speedway accommodated 80,000 fans with an eventual seating capacity of 107,000. The total cost of the project was approximately $120 million.

The pole sitter has never captured this race in the 14-year history; however, Johnson won the 2008 fall event at California from the pole. The number three position has won this race twice ,while the 31st position is the furthest any driver has started and won there (2006). When Rusty Wallace captured this event in 2001, he became the oldest winner at California at 44 years, 8 months and 15 days. Four drivers have competed in all 21 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek. Ten of the 21 races were won from starting positions outside the top 10; only one has been won from the pole (Jimmie Johnson in 2008). The most prolific starting position is third, with three victories.

Richard Marx will sing the national anthem, Christian Slater is the Grand Marshal and will shout for the drivers to start their engines and Sugar Ray Leonard is the honorary starter.

The next Sprint Cup Series race is the April 3rd Tums Fast Pain Relief at Martinsville Speedway. Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner.

03/23 09:39:31 ET

As of March 23, 2011, at 09:39 AM ET

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