Auto Club Speedway is known for producing a great show. Things tend to get hot under the California sun, especially the racing. Sunday did not disappoint.
At first, everything got stuffy. Well, for Denny Hamlin, I mean; the driver of the No. 11 wasn’t approved by NASCAR to race due to a severe sinus infection. It apparently blurred his vision too much, and that made it unsafe to compete. His replacement? Sam Hornish Jr., who was on standby for fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth (in case Kenseth’s wife went into labor)
So everything was weird from the start. A collective breath was being held, too; practice sessions showed that tires would be an issue.
It was more like an epidemic than an issue. Twenty laps into each run, tires would begin to blow, and cautions would result. Nobody was safe (or so it seemed), from a stout Kevin Harvick in the race’s opening laps to Jimmie Johnson, who was leading with less than ten to go.
With the new spoiler, the amount of downforce was increased. Teams were sticking to last year’s setup, which turned out to be too aggressive combined with the spoiler change. This is why some teams didn’t have tire issues. Also, the bumpiness of the track most likely played a factor.
In a Green-White-Checkered finish, the field started seven-wide into the first turn. No joke, cars were scrambling. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart were neck and neck, but Kyle Busch shot up into the mix, Kyle Larson trailing. In the end, Larson attempted to go for the weekend sweep, but the No. 18 prevailed. This is a repeat win for him after last year, and he’s also the fifth different winner of 2014.
Point Standings after the Auto Club 400
1. Carl Edwards (–)
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-1)
3. Jeff Gordon (-2)
4. Brad Keselowski (-4)
5. Matt Kenseth (-7)
6. Jimmie Johnson (-21)
7. Kyle Busch (-28)
8. Ryan Newman (-36)
8. Austin Dillon (-36)
10. Joey Logan (-40)
11. Denny Hamlin (-46)
12. Jamie McMurray (-48)
13. Brian Vickers (-49)
14. Paul Menard (-52)
15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-54)
16. Kyle Larson (-55)
FAN REACTION: Fans responded positively to the tire issues, saying it added an element of unpredictability, which racing is suppose to possess. However, some believe it created a lottery-like air, making it almost unfair. To me, it emphasized the importance of those behind the scenes. If teams had keen hearing, they would’ve picked up on how the spoilers would affect everything else. The consensus? ‘A’s and ‘B’s all around.
From noses to tires, it was an interesting day on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series front. Though enjoyable, it was hard on the heart. Thrilling races like that should come with a warning label.