Memorable moments at Auto Club
By Staff Report | Friday, February 28, 2020
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With NASCAR hitting Auto Club Speedway this weekend, we take a look back at some of the top moments at the 2-mile track.
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1997: California native Jeff Gordon wins the inaugural race at Fontana after topping the leaderboard for 113 of 250 laps. Gordon would go on to finish his career at the track with three wins, 10 top fives, 12 top 10s, two poles and 648 laps led.
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1998: Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt get caught up in a five-car crash on Lap 87 between Turns 1 and 2. Elliott finished the day in 43rd while 'The Intimidator' rebounded nicely with a ninth-place result.
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2001: Rusty Wallace pulls away with the win for the NAPA Auto Parts 500 on what would have been Dale Earnhardt's 50th birthday. Wallace carried the flag of the No. 3, made so famous by Earnhardt, during his victory lap.
Robert Laberge | Getty Images.
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2002: California native Jimmie Johnson got his first Cup win in his home state, holding off Kurt Busch and Ricky Rudd among others for the victory. The win marked the first Cup Series win as well for crew chief Chad Knaus.
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2004, spring: 2004 marked the first year that NASCAR raced twice at the 2-mile track (until 2011). The spring event was filled with drama, especially when the No. 2 of Rusty Wallace and the No. 97 of Kurt Busch got tangled up on the front stretch, resulting in a crash.
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2005, fall: Then-rookie Kyle Busch wins the Sony HD 500 after outracing Greg Biffle. Not only was this Busch's first win in the premier series, but (at the time) he became the youngest winner in NASCAR Cup Series history at the age of 20.
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2006, fall: During the thrilling Sony HD 500, Kasey Kahne passes the No. 41 of Reed Sorenson during the final laps to pull away with the win. Sorenson, who ran out of gas with two laps left, finished the day in 21st. This would be Kahne's fifth win (out of six) for the season.
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2011: Kevin Harvick only led the final lap and that was all he needed to win the 2011 Auto Club 400. Harvick tracked down Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, passing Johnson in the final turn to get his lone win thus far at the California track.
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2013: The 2013 race would be one of the most dramatic to date as Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart all got involved in conflict. Logano and Hamlin had tensions brewing over from the previous Bristol race. A last-lap wreck involving Hamlin and Logano left Hamlin injured and sidelined for the next four races with a L1 compression fracture. 'Smoke' then got involved later after he was blocked by Logano, which led to a post-race confrontation on pit road (pictured). Oh, and Kyle Busch won!
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2016: Jimmie Johnson made history when he beat Kevin Harvick to the start/finish line during overtime for his 77th career victory. The win broke a tie with Dale Earnhardt on the all-time wins list in NASCAR's premier series.
Jonathan Ferrey | Getty Images
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2017: Kyle Larson started from the Busch Pole, led 110 laps and claimed his second career NASCAR Cup Series win. More than just getting the checkered flag, the win was a sign of things to come as Larson logged his best season to date in 2017, when he had four wins.
Chris Graythen | Getty Images
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2019: Kyle Busch led 134 laps and won at Auto Club for his 200th career NASCAR national series win. He celebrated, of course, with burnouts, a flag and his family.