This weekend, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads back to the west coast in a strange scheduling hiccup that everyone talks about, few can explain, and yet continues year after year. That’s a lot of jet fuel and diesel for a series touting itself as environmentally friendly.
Maybe that’s why NASCAR plants all those trees outside of racetracks across the country.
A quick look to the past shows that the Auto Club 400 is usually a real snooze. However, last year’s edition was—at times—exciting and quite entertaining even though most media recollections focused on the final ten laps.
Former teammates Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin—in a feud that began the previous week in Bristol—battled each other as things wound down on the 200 lap race. On the final lap, Logano was not only dealing with Tony Stewart—who had been blocking him—but Hamlin, who was aggressively racing him for position. Hamlin made a move on Logano just as the two took the white flag and passed the start/finish line. They drove side-by-side until the back stretch when a bump by Logano sent Hamlin’s Toyota spinning head on into an inside retaining wall. The impact fractured Hamlin’s back and the rest, as they say, is history.
Logano and Stewart later had a confrontation of their own on pit road, which is currently being used in a television commercial highlighting NASCAR's drama and unpredictability.
Kyle Busch, the race winner, received one- and two-sentence mentions in most race recaps and insisted that the media pay him a bit of attention. His pleas fell on deaf ears. The big story was the Hamlin and Logano feud—which most observers say got out of hand—that caused serious injury to Hamlin and caused his 2013 season to be a write off after only a handful of races.
We can only hope for something similar in the final laps of this Sunday’s edition—without any of the destructive physical injuries, of course.
It’s the very least we can look forward to if we’re to endure another 400 miles of mind numbing, single-file, fuel economy racing from Auto Club Speedway.