NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Fontana: 3 Notes from Sunday's Race
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Many NASCAR fans complain year after year about the uneventful races at Fontana. Fans don’t like Auto-Club Speedway because races there usually turn into 400-mile high-speed parades.
However, the final 10 laps at Fontana on Sunday were everything a NASCAR fan could ask for. They provided drama, aggressive driving and, most importantly, fantastic racing. As the Cup Series heads into a bye week over Easter, fans, the media and drivers will all have plenty to talk about for the next two weeks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is the Points Leader
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It is extremely early in the 2013 Sprint Cup season. Five races are complete, and 31 remain undecided. No driver has even won multiple races yet. However, Earnhardt Jr. is demonstrating that he is a serious contender for this season's Sprint Cup championship.
He has spent more time on the lead lap than any other driver, per Auto Racing Daily. That means he is consistently running in the front of the field and in a position to stay high in the standings and be in a position to win races.
Sunday’s race at Fontana speaks to how Earnhardt Jr. is performing this season. The No. 88 team was able to overcome a bad pit stop that lasted over 20 seconds and cost him more than 10 positions.
Earnhardt Jr. is overcoming adversity in positions where he normally would not. His success at Fontana speaks to that.
Fontana is normally one of Earnhardt’s worst tracks. His average finish there is 20th, according to DriverAverages.com. Despite that, he and his team overcame hurdles and finished with their second second-place finish of the Cup season.
Dale Jr. has yet to win a race this season, but with Sunday’s results, NASCAR’s most popular driver might see Victory Lane very soon.
Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano
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The two drivers butted heads at Bristol and on Twitter last Sunday. Denny Hamlin bumped Joey Logano, which caused Logano to spin and crash, ending his chance to win at Bristol. That wreck eventually led to a post-race altercation, which then led to speculation about Logano’s potential revenge.
The drama between the two was the topic of conversation amongst most fans and media. And it escalated Sunday afternoon on the final lap of the Auto Club 400 at Fontana.
Logano and Hamlin were side by side headed into Turns 3 and 4, with Logano on the bottom and Hamlin on the top. Logano appeared to get loose going into Turn 4, which caused both cars to climb up the racetrack, resulting in Logano slamming into the wall and Hamlin spinning toward the infield. Neither driver made it to the finish line.
The drama between the two will most likely be a storyline going into Martinsville, a short track where tempers tend to flare. This is assuming Hamlin will be healthy enough to race in two weeks. He was airlifted to the hospital, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today, after his Toyota Camry slammed into an infield wall that did not have a SAFER barrier. Gluck did mention, though, that Hamlin was awake and alert after the crash.
Kyle Busch Dominated
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The wreck between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano might have been the center of attention after Sunday’s race, but Kyle Busch dominated. The Auto Club 400 was relatively uneventful until the final 10 laps because Busch was constantly running in the front and leading lap after lap.
During those final 10 laps, Busch almost lost the race to the fresh tires of Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Joey Logano. But as Logano and Hamlin wrecked each other out of top-five finishes, Kyle Busch shot by on the high side and won his first race in his last 31 attempts.
Busch now sits at sixth in the standings as he looks to build a successful foundation for a chance at his first Sprint Cup championship.