Jimmie Johnson continues where he left off in 2009 - wins at Fontana
Jamie McMurray, the winner of the Daytona 500 one short week ago led the cars to the green flag, but his front row partner, Juan Pablo Montoya, quickly jumped out to the front, while Jamie slid back. the observation was made that never has the leader of the first lap also been the leader of the final lap, however JPM seemed determined to discount that. It took 30 laps, but Jimmie Johnson caught and passed JPM. While JPM's tires seemed to have reduced his speed, once again Jimmie was not affected by this wear on his tires.
A number of drivers brushed the wall in the early laps, including Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.
Auto Club Speedway is so wide that 6 wide racing is not uncommon, leading to a lot of green flag laps and few cautions. In fact, the cars started green flag pit stops at lap 38, without having seen a caution flag. Jeff's crew made some changes on his car that worked to his advantage and suddenly he had a top five car, instead of the top 20 car he had been driving before the pit stop. We all know "loose is fast" and he had gone from tight before the pit stop to tight after.
Martin Truex Jr got into the outside wall as well, after running the high line around the track, and he stayed out, running in 15th. And speaking of Martin Truex Jr., in keeping with NAPA tradition, his new "NAPA Know How" commercial is excellent, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it didn't help him on the track, as he was done early in the race, with an engine problem.
After many laps of green flag racing, Kasey Kahne spun. He was running next to JPM and the back end got loose, turning into the grass. The right side of the splitter was bent up significantly, effecting his ability to run with the leaders. In the meantime, Jeff Gordon got into the wall again. Jimmie Johnson showed he was just continuing from where he left off last season and continued to lead, with Mark Martin hot on his heels.
The next round of green flag pit stops got underway, and this time, without "hood jumping", the (tongue in cheek) new Olympic sport. Once again, there were penalties for pit road speeding infractions, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining JPM and Kevin Harvick.
As the green flag flew, JPM's engine gave out bringing out another caution, and followed on the next restart by Ryan Newman's when he missed a shft and spun his tires. Unlike Juan's car, Ryan's detonated in a huge blast of smoke. In the meantime, Kasey Kahne was in the garage with the window net up, undergoing repairs on his car. Juan Pablo Montoya was observed "speaking" with him, but Kahne didn't appear to be paying much attention.
Dale Earnhardt Jr benefitted from the two quick cautions, as he had gone a lap down with the pit road speeding penalty and had been able to get back on the lead lap with the cautions. On the restart, Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon jumped to the front, but neither was competition for yesterday's Nationwide winner, Kyle Busch, who quickly passed them both and became the 10th different leader.
Jeff Burton was able to get back around Kyle, and not long after that, Marcos Ambrose lost the engine in his car, even as Jeff Gordon was also reporting a sour sounding engine. As the crew instructed him to let Mark Martin go by so as to avoid team casualties if the engine should let go, Jeff came back on the radio to say the car was running fine again.
As the green flag stops continued, Clint Bowyer took over the lead. Dale Jr.'s crew called for an axle as it appeared his had broken. At Daytona it was Jimmie Johnson with rear axle problems, and with the concrete pits, it appeared a misjudgement by Dale Jr. caused the rear half shank to snap.
The rains moved in shortly after the problem for Dale Jr., and the fifth caution of the day flew. Although the show appeared to be brief, radar showed that behind the brief shower there appeared to be much heavier rains on the way. Denny Hamlin was leading as the yellow flew, but came in for fuel, even as Scott Speed continued to coast around the apron, turning his car on and off to conserve the fuel he had left in his tank.
As the green flew again, the rains appeared to be obeying the "vortex theory" and circled around the track. It appeared the race may be completed without another rain break, but the car and engine problems seem to be taking over the story.
With 20 laps to go, Jimmie Johnson was out front, followed by the Richard Childress Racing teammates of Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. It seemed Jimmie was in a class all his own, however, as no one really had anything for him. The top ten surprise was Scott Speed who was running in 9th, followed by his teammate, Brian Vickers.
The competition in the last 10 laps was between the two RCR cars. The seemed to be catching Jimmie, but as long as they were racing each other, Jimmie was able to stay out in front. Kevin finally caught him and with three laps to go seemed poised to pass, but got loose and hit the wall with his right rear quarter panel. He had o slow up and Jimmie was able to take off again, taking the checkers by a clear margin.