Sunday, March 25, 2012

Smoke Outruns Rain At Auto Club Speedway

Tony Stewart made some great moves Sunday en route to a win in the rain-shortened Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. But it was a move he didn’t make that sent him to Victory Lane.

Stewart had them covered in Fontana
The defending NASCAR sprint Cup Series champion surged forward from his ninth-place starting spot Sunday using a series of “slide job” maneuvers reminiscent of his title-clinching win at Homestead Miami Speedway last November. He led the race when rain began to fall 24 laps past the halfway point, then faked a move to pit road before darting back onto the race track. While polesitter Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson elected to pit, Stewart remained on course for five additional lap under caution before the rain increased in severity, forcing NASCAR to red-flag the race.
Kyle Busch also remained on-track during the rain to finish second, with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards completing the Top-5. Point leader Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch finished sixth through ninth, followed by Johnson and Hamlin. Johnson's day was saved by the rain, after the engine in his Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet began smoking badly under the race’s final caution. Had the rain abated, it is unlikely the five-time series champion would have been able to continue without losing multiple laps.
"I don't think I faked them out," said Stewart of his decisive feint toward pit road. “(It) looked good, though."
Hamlin explained his choice to duck onto pit road, saying, “We were planning on the race going back to green. If it doesn't, we lose some spots. But if we choose to stay out there, we would be behind all the cars that pitted (and) our chance of winning decreases greatly.”
The win was Stewart’s second of the young 2012 season, making him the only multi-event winner to date. “This Office Depot Chevy was bad fast,” he said in a makeshift, rain-soaked Victory Lane. "I'm really proud of Steve Addington and all of our guys."
Stewart’s 46th career Sprint Cup Victory ties him with the late Buck Baker for 14th on NASCAR’s all-time list, and gives him seven checkered flags in his last 15 starts, dating back to September of last year at Chicagoland Speedway.


  1. Anonymous8:48 PM

    Should make for an interesting show on Monday.

  2. Anonymous8:51 PM

    Oh hell yeah Smoke! Never one known to be a fast starter to the season, you are ruling the rest now. Keep it up!

  3. Smoke is usually smoldering, at best this time of year. Normally. This year hasn't been normal. There's guys in the standings that I'm not used to seeing in such low places, and others where I'd expect those, should be.

    I hate to go down the yellow horseshoe road, but again! Again the 48 dodged a bullet! Are you serious?! Denny Hamlin could have brought home some valuable points that he left on the table today. Ask Carl how valuable those points are. I hope for his sake, he was able to get in some strokes on some of our finest greens - since that seemed to center him in the winter months - but, wait! That's right... IT'S RAINING!!! He isn't convincing me saying he would have lost more had he stayed out. I want to be a fly on the wall in their next comp meeting. And what happened to 'Inside NASCAR'?!

    I hope someone from Jr Nation doesn't start off the show tomorrow telling us who would have won if it went green again... What time can I call in?

  4. Anonymous1:37 AM

    Smoke has the swagger,and he has Zippy hes going to be tough to beat this year.

  5. Anonymous8:48 AM

    Great story

  6. Great race...Tony showed them how to do it...once again! So happy there is another topic for the fans this week...I was sick of hearing about Bristol. Should I point out the call by Darian to pull Denny down to the pits???? These are the kind of calls so frustrating to Tony last year??? There seemed to be some issues about the attendance at Fontana....I vote for a 3rd Martinsville race.