News & Media


Driver reports following Bristol race

March 18, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com

Driver reports following Bristol race
Win vaults Kahne up standings; Earnhardt Jr. stays consistent

1. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Penske Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Keselowski leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 166 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion continued his strong start, placing third after dueling with eventual winner Kasey Kahne and second-place finisher Kyle Busch over the final 40 laps. Keselowski lost ground on the final restart with four laps remaining when Denny Hamlin -- thanks to an aggressive bump from Joey Logano, Keselowski’s teammate -- bumped into the No. 2 Ford. Keselowski, who led 62 laps Sunday, has finished in the top five in all four races, including back-to-back third-place showings.
This week: In four career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Keselowski’s best finish is 18th in 2012. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Keselowski ranks 24th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 21.3.
Last year: The good news: Keselowski had his best showing at Fontana in 2012 after three previous attempts didn’t yield a top 20. The bad news: It wasn’t a particularly outstanding finish, with the eventual 2012 champion taking 18th place. Still, Keselowski’s team felt like it made gains at the 2-mile track. The No. 2 ran near the top 10 and corrected a handling problem during a green-flag pit stop. It was moving up in the field when the rain came.
What he said: “The 2 team did a great job adjusting on the car during the race. We weren’t close at the start, but at the end the car was pretty good, not quite as good as Kasey’s, but still a great effort.”

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Earnhardt Jr. is second in the standings with 157 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Earnhardt finished with his fourth consecutive top 10 to open the season, and he had to work his way through the field to do it. The No. 88 started 32nd, and it appeared his run of top-10 finishes would end at Thunder Valley. Earnhardt, though, stayed steady -- and stayed out of trouble -- to finish sixth.
This week: In 20 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Earnhardt has four top fives and five top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Earnhardt ranks 20th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 20.2.
Last year: Earnhardt broke through at Fontana, finishing in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. Junior was fifth when the day’s lone caution flag came out, but he moved up to third place when two cars in front of him pitted -- the forecast called for rain throughout the day, so most cars stayed out. Third place is where he finished, too.
What he said: “I have to give all the credit to (crew chief) Steve Letarte. He made a couple, two, three great pit calls there at the end, and gave us the opportunity to get some guys on some old tires, and beat a few guys that we probably weren't going to beat. Great call by him.”

3. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Johnson is third in the standings with 151 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Johnson had his worst finish of the year, although it wasn’t due to poor driving or having a slow car. No, Five-Time -- who already has one win and one runner-up finish -- blew a tire on Lap 455 of 500, hitting the wall and necessitating a pit stop. The No. 48 was in the top five at the time of the accident, but finished 22nd. For the first time this year, Johnson lost the Sprint Cup points lead due to the incident and subsequent finish.
This week: In 18 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Johnson has five wins, 12 top fives, 14 top 10s and one pole. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Johnson ranks first out of 47 drivers with an average place of 5.4.
Last year: Jimmie Johnson’s torrid tear at Fontana continued when Five-Time placed 10th in a rain-shortened race. It was his 10th consecutive top 10 finish at the 2-mile track. Johnson started 10th and led two laps before the rain came on Lap 123, bringing out a five-lap caution period before it was ultimately red flagged. Yes, Johnson was good, but he was also lucky. His No. 48 Chevrolet started spewing oil under the caution, but he managed to complete the lap to lock up 10th.

4. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Bowyer is fourth in the standings with 128 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Bowyer notched his best finish of the year, driving through the field from his starting position of 23rd to finish fifth. Bowyer was 14th through 400 laps, but took advantage of a few accidents in front of him to race into the top five.
This week: In 12 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Bowyer has two top fives and seven top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Bowyer ranks 10th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 13.2.
Last year: Bowyer had the fastest car in the first practice last year, but it didn’t translate into the results he or his team wanted. Still, qualifying 15th and finishing 13th is more than respectable. Bowyer’s showing here legitimized, in the minds of many, Michael Waltrip Racing’s performance, and that story line indeed held true through the rest of the season.
What he said: “I just didn’t have enough for them on the bottom down there, (and) needed a little bit of track position. We had a great car and it was a good day -- just wasn’t a great day.”

5. Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Biffle is fifth in the standings with 126 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Biffle finished outside the top 10 for the third consecutive week, but he moved up three places in the points standings because of his ability to simply finish. For a driver who started 24th and was in 28th position through Lap 75, crossing the start/finish line in 11th place -- as Biffle did -- was considered a good day. The No. 16 Ford ran in the top five at times as well.
This week: In 18 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Biffle has one win, four top fives and six top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Biffle ranks ninth out of 47 drivers with an average place of 12.7.
Last year: Biffle broke out of his Fontana frustrations in a big way, qualifying fourth and finishing sixth. The showing allowed the No. 16 driver to keep his status as first in the Sprint Cup Series standings. Prior to last year, Biffle hadn’t recorded a top-10 finish at Fontana since 2009.
What he said:
“It was really a great day for us because we needed that. At one point we had the fastest car, but we were just a sitting duck because we didn’t take tires. … I went from 28th to fifth and passed every car by myself, so it was a pretty good day.”

6. Denny Hamlin (No. 11)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Hamlin is sixth in the standings with 125 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Hamlin had one of the best cars of the day -- something that could be said for any of Joe Gibbs Racing’s cars -- but the story with the No. 11 driver is what happened once the race was over. Hamlin, who had previously nudged Joey Logano, causing the driver to spin out, hadn’t gotten out of his car -- or taken his helmet off -- after the race when an angry Logano confronted him, triggering a brief skirmish between the two drivers’ crews. Although he led for 117 laps, Hamlin lost major ground on the final restart (thanks, in part, to Logano’s bump from behind) and finished 23rd.
This week: In 12 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin has one top five, four top 10s and two poles. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Hamlin ranks 12th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 14.6.
Last year: Hamlin’s 11th-place finish doesn’t do justice to his performance. The No. 11 Toyota was on the pole and ran in the top five all afternoon, including a 20-lap stretch of running second from Lap 100-120. Hamlin and other top-five drivers followed leader Tony Stewart toward pit road on Lap 124. At the last second, Stewart jerked his car back onto the track, while the rest of the top five pitted. The race was called off due to rain five laps later, which wasn’t enough time for Hamlin to get back in contention for the win.
What he said: “I meant to run into (Logano). Didn’t mean to spin him out. We finished bad. He finished bad. It’s even.”

7. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Kahne is seventh in the standings with 124 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Kahne picked up his first win of the season and continued his ascent in the standings. The No. 5 driver is in seventh place, two races after sitting in 31st. Kahne had the car of the field Sunday, leading six different times for 109 total laps, including the final 40. Kahne didn’t drop out of the top five all day.
This week: In 16 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Kahne has one win, four top fives, nine top 10s and one pole. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Kahne ranks 11th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 14.6.

Last year:
Kahne qualified fifth and finished 14th, which had to be considered a victory despite the drop once the race started. It was Kahne’s best finish at this point in the season after the No. 5 driver had speedy cars but couldn’t close the deal at multiple points before Fontana.
What he said: “This is a big race for me. I just feel like when you're racing in the Sprint Cup Series, Bristol's one of those tracks that as a driver you really feel like you need to win at, you want to win at. … We've been trying a long time. So to pull it off, I felt like it was a big accomplishment for our guys and myself.”

8. Carl Edwards (No. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Edwards is eighth in the standings with 124 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Edwards was just happy to get out of Bristol. The No. 99 driver, coming off back-to-back top-five finishes, became sick in his race car. He finished 18th after a long day.
This week: In 15 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Edwards has one win, seven top fives, 12 top 10s and one pole. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Edwards ranks seventh out of 47 drivers with an average place of 12.3.
Last year: Although Edwards struggled last season after nearly winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in 2011, this race was one of his best showings. Edwards drove the No. 99 Ford to a fifth-place finish after starting 12th. It was Edwards’ second consecutive top five, although he finished with only three total on the year.
What he said: “I have to thank the infield medical folks and the folks with NASCAR medical. They really helped me out a lot today. That’s the most miserable race I’ve ever been through, but there was a little bit of satisfaction to come back and finish 18th.”

9. Paul Menard (No. 27)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Menard is ninth in the standings with 118 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Menard continued his climb in the Sprint Cup standings by claiming his second consecutive top-10 finish. Driving the No. 27 Chevrolet, Menard led one lap and finished ninth. For the fourth consecutive race, Menard finished a race better than he did the previous week. And for the fourth consecutive week, he moved up in the standings, this time cracking the top 10.
This week: In 10 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Menard’s best finish is 16th in 2011. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Menard ranks 26th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 24.7.
Last year: Menard had a top-20 effort for the third time in four races at Fontana, finishing 19th -- and he drove well after qualifying 27th.
What he said: “It's great to bring home another top-10 finish this weekend. We've got some more momentum heading into Fontana. Hopefully, we can keep our top-10 streak alive out in California.”

10. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Busch is 10th in the standings with 115 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Busch couldn’t quite complete the Bristol sweep, but he came as close as possible. After winning the Nationwide Series race on Saturday, Busch led 56 laps Sunday and finished second. The No. 18 Toyota did it with flair, too, weaving back through the field after an early pit-road speeding penalty. In the end, Busch didn’t have quite enough power to catch winner Kasey Kahne.
This week: In 15 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Busch has one win, six top fives, 10 top 10s and one pole. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Busch ranks third out of 47 drivers with an average place of 9.6.
Last year: Busch started second and finished second for an outstanding showing at Fontana. He wasn't able to catch winner Tony Stewart in the final laps.
What he said: “We didn’t have the best car today -- shoot, we probably had a sixth- or seventh-place car today and we ended up second with it. We’ll take something out of that. It will move us up in some points and get us back heading in the right direction from the hole we dug ourselves early.”

11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Stenhouse Jr. is 11th in the standings with 115 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Stenhouse started from the back after swapping out an engine and finished 16th. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate has four respectable showings this year and, as a result, is close to breaking into the top 10 in the standings.
This week: Stenhouse Jr. has no starts at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
What he said: “We ended up working our way to the front. On that one run we passed a lot of cars and got into 12th there, and then I got into the wall. … The car wasn’t quite as good after that, but, all in all, to start last and finish 16th is not terrible for us.”

12. Joey Logano (No. 22)

Penske Racing, Ford

Where he stands: Logano is 12th in the standings with 104 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Logano felt like he had one of the best cars in the field for the second consecutive week. The No. 22 driver, though, was incensed after spinning out on a nudge from Denny Hamlin and wound up finishing 17th. The 22-year-old, who led a lap, remained heated after the race and confronted Hamlin, his former teammate, as soon as the No. 11 Toyota pulled off the track.
This week: In six career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Logano has one top five and one top 10. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Logano ranks 22nd out of 47 drivers with an average place of 20.9.
Last year: Logano has qualified well at Bristol, but that hasn’t carried over in the final results. Six times Logano has qualified better than 10th, but he has just one top 10 and four top 20s. Last year with Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano qualified ninth and finished 16th.
What he said: “It’s frustrating when you’ve got a car that can possibly win it and to get taken out from something like that is just frustrating. This team deserves better.”

13. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Kenseth is 13th in the standings with 103 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Kenseth had worked himself in position to challenge for the win for the fourth consecutive week. Bad luck reared its head on Lap 390, though. Kenseth, having already led for an 85-lap stretch, was in second and trailing Jeff Gordon. Gordon had old right tires, and his right front blew out, sending the No. 24 careening up the track and into the wall. He cut right in front of Kenseth, and there was nothing the No. 20 could do about it. The impact sent both cars to the garage for good.
This week: In 20 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Kenseth has three wins, eight top fives and 13 top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Kenseth ranks second out of 47 drivers with an average place of 9.5.
Last year: Kenseth’s history at Fontana is rich, but his past few performances have been inconsistent. Kenseth had eight consecutive top-10 finishes -- including three wins -- at the track during a span from 2005-09. Since then, he’s been out of the top 10 in three of five races. Last year, Kenseth finished 16th.
What he said: “There was not a lot either one of us could have done about that (wreck), so it’s going to take a lot of Husky Tools to fix that thing. We had a great car again today. We just didn’t make it to the end, unfortunately.”

14. Jamie McMurray (No. 1)

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: McMurray is 14th in the standings with 100 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, McMurray rallied from a solo spin to finish 10th -- his first top-10 showing of the season -- and climbed into the top 20 for the first time this season. McMurray got too high in Turn 4 on Lap 70 and spun out into the wall. The wreck didn’t collect anyone else, and was early enough that the No. 1 Chevrolet had time to work his way back through traffic.
This week: In 17 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, McMurray has three top fives, five top 10s and two poles. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, McMurray ranks 21st out of 47 drivers with an average place of 20.8.
Last year: McMurray had a rough afternoon. The No. 1 driver qualified 16th but finished 32nd, three laps down.

15. Marcos Ambrose (No. 9)

Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford 

Where he stands: Ambrose is 15th in the standings with 99 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Ambrose finished 19th, which has been a familiar area for the No. 9 Ford. In four races, the driver has finished between 18-22 every time. In Bristol, a pair of incidents -- including a six-car wreck -- led to right-front fender damage, putting Ambrose behind early. He continues to move up in the standings, though, because he’s completed every lap but two this year.
This week: In seven career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Ambrose’s best finish is 21st in 2012. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Ambrose ranks 29th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 26.3.
Last year: Ambrose was caught in a multicar wreck that he simply couldn’t avoid. The seven-car accident caused a 21-lap caution and relegated Ambrose -- who qualified 12th -- back to the garage. The No. 9 Ford eventually returned and finished 36th, 111 laps down.
What he said: “It was another long day for us. We fought hard, and the guys did a really nice job of putting all the parts and pieces back in place.”

16. Kurt Busch (No. 78)

Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Busch is 16th in the standings with 98 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Busch and Furniture Row Racing found themselves in an unfamiliar position -- the top five. Although Busch has had success at Bristol, he and his team haven’t experienced that together. So Sunday’s fourth-place finish was a big jolt to the No. 78. It was Busch’s first top five in nearly a year, and just the fourth top-five finish in 203 starts for Furniture Row Racing. The strong showing vaulted Busch 13 spots up the standings.
This week: In 19 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Busch has one win, four top fives, nine top 10s and three poles. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Busch ranks 13th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 14.7.
Last year: Despite starting 23rd, Busch and his team rallied for a ninth-place finish with Phoenix Racing. It was the driver’s best showing at Fontana since 2009.
What he said: “We had to battle back from a couple of loose wheels. … We had a very fast car today and to come home with a top five is exactly what we needed. The poor No. 78 car, she’s used up.”

17. Kevin Harvick (No. 29)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Harvick is 17th in the standings with 98 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Harvick was in the top 10 for a 300-lap stretch, but finished 14th. The No. 29 car was the victim of getting caught up in lapped traffic on more than one occasion. The team also took four tires on Lap 396 at a time where most of the leaders took two tires, or didn’t pit at all.
This week: In 19 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Harvick has one win, four top fives and nine top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Harvick ranks eighth out of 47 drivers with an average place of 12.3.
Last year: Harvick had a strong car last year in Fontana, and he took advantage of some of the leaders pitting five laps before it started raining to finish fourth. It was his fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the track.
What he said: “That was not the result we were looking for. We lost track position when pit strategy late in the race didn't work in our favor. We'll learn from our mistakes and move on to the next race.”

18. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Truex Jr. is 18th in the standings with 96 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Truex hung around the top 10 most of the day but got shuffled toward the back on a late restart. The No. 56 Toyota ended up finishing 12th, bringing Truex Jr. -- who qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last season -- into the top 20.
This week: In 12 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Truex Jr. has three top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Truex ranks 19th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 19.5.
Last year: Truex Jr. had his best showing at Fontana since the spring race in 2008, finishing eighth. His best finish at the track over the previous five races was 18th, and even that was his only top-20 showing during that time.
What he said: “It should have been a top-10 finish. We got jumbled on the restart and that cost us some positions. Plus it was so tight on the restart. I drove my butt off. We learned a lot and collected more points, so we’ll take it.”

19. Mark Martin (No. 55)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Martin is 19th in the standings with 95 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Martin watched Brian Vickers drive the No. 55 Toyota to an eighth-place finish. The fact that Martin remains in the top 20 in the standings despite missing one of four races is a testament to how strong he’s been in the three races in which he has driven. The 54-year-old veteran returns to the car this week.
This week: In 21 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Martin has one win, six top fives and 10 top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Martin ranks fifth out of 47 drivers with an average place of 9.9.
Last year: Martin started third, but steadily dropped back in the first 30 laps. He was down to 12th place 30 laps in, and that’s where he finished.

20. Aric Almirola (No. 43)

Richard Petty Motorsports, Ford 

Where he stands: Almirola is 20th in the standings with 95 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Almirola spun out twice on consecutive laps to finish 37th, spoiling what so far had been a consistent season. Almirola’s initial spin sent him to pit road for fixes, and he spun again on the ensuing lasp when his left rear tire went flat. The No. 43 team couldn’t recover.
This week: In five career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Almirola’s best finish is 25th in 2012. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Almirola ranks 39th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 31.7.
Last year: Almirola recorded his career best finish at the two-mile track, finishing 25th in the rain-shortened event. He and the No. 43 team for Richard Petty Motorsports have surprised some by remaining in the top 10 through four races. Almirola will likely have to record another career-best finish to stay there.
What he said: “We were having a solid day. Our Smithfield Ford Fusion was decent. We needed it to be better, but it was decent and coming off pit road somebody ran into my left-rear and I guess it cut the tire down. We took off on that restart and I was out of control and crashed.”

Five in the rearview mirror …

Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolett 

Where he stands: Gordon is 21st in the standings with 90 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Gordon went from first place to the garage in quick order. The No. 24 Chevrolet blew a right front tire while in the lead with nearly 100 laps to go. Gordon finished 24th and fell out of the top 20.
This week: In 23 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Gordon has three wins, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and two poles. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Gordon ranks fourth out of 47 drivers with an average place of 9.8.

Ryan Newman (No. 39)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Newman is 23rd in the standings with 87 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Newman had his second top 10 of the season, finishing seventh. The reason why he’s out of the top 20 in the points standings is because, in addition to two top 10s, he has 38th- and 40th-place finishes.
This week: In 22 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Newman has one top five, 12 top 10s and three poles. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Newman ranks 15th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 16.7.

Tony Stewart (No. 14)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Stewart is 24th in the standings with 85 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Tony Stewart hit the wall just nine laps into the race after his left rear tire deflated. Stewart said he felt the tire go flat, but he couldn’t get down the track to pit road due to congestion. Stewart missed 15 laps, but returned and finished 31st.
This week: In 21 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Stewart has two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Stewart ranks sixth out of 47 drivers with an average place of 10.1.

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42)

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Montoya is 26th in the standings with 77 points.
Last week:
In the Food City 500, Montoya finished 30th. The driver complained about not having enough speed on restarts and went to the garage briefly.
This week: In 10 career starts at Auto Club Speedway, Montoya has one top, two top 10s and one pole. For point-paying races in the past eight years at Auto Club, Montoya ranks 16th out of 47 drivers with an average place of 17.4.

Danica Patrick (No. 10)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet 

Where she stands: Patrick is 28th in the standings with 69 points.
Last week: In the Food City 500, Patrick avoided any incidents and finished 28th after starting 41st.
This week: Patrick has no starts at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

We apologize. We are having technical issues with our comment sections and fan community and it is temporarily unavailable. We are actively working on these issues and hope to have it up and running soon. We are also working on enhancements to provide a better forum for our fans. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience.