Parks Race Reactions: Pepsi 500 at California

Dustin ParksAnalyst IOctober 12, 2009

FONTANA, CA - OCTOBER 11:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway on October 11, 2009 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

In the shadows of Hollywood, where the stars of the screen are always in front of a camera, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took center stage. After 250 laps, 500 miles, and a few hot tempers, one driver took home the award for "Most Outstanding Performance."

This week's edition of "Parks Race Reactions" will look at the race along with some things seen off the race track that made headlines.

I first will go back to the Nationwide race on Saturday. What a great job by Joey Logano. After an incident with Greg Biffle that did some damage to both the left and right side of his GameStop Camry, he came back and won the Copart 300.

But, the big story was after the race. While Biffle was on pit road, Joey's father, Tom Logano, showed his displeasure of Biffle by giving him the middle finger. Biffle acknowledge it, and a NASCAR official immediately pulled his credential.

The elder Logano did apply for a paper credential for Sunday's race, but his hard card has been pulled until NASCAR says he can get it back.

I am all for a father standing up for his son, but Joey was handling the situation very well. Even though he is just 19, he did not let the incident get to him, and came out on top.

The incident is over now, and hopefully these two can come to some agreement before it gets out of hand.

Now, onto Sunday's Pepsi 500.

What else can you say about the No. 48 team? It just seems when the series comes to the Auto Club Speedway, this team and this car turn up the pressure. Three straight years, three straight victories.

When this race was held before the Chase, Johnson gained the necessary momentum to propel him to the championship. Even though the race is later, the story remained the same.

The victory, his second in the Chase, allowed him to get the points lead. He now has a 12-point advantage on his teammate, Mark Martin, who finished third. It is certainly going to be interesting once the series moves to Charlotte this week.

I must also give some big props to Jeff Gordon. California has been one of his best tracks, and he put up a great fight for the win late in the going.

But, much like many weeks, the double-file restarts did him in. Neither line had a definitive advantage over the other, making it a tough choice for Gordon. However, in each case, Johnson got the better drive coming out of the second turn to get the lead, and that ultimately was the deciding factor.

Still, his runner-up position moved him to fifth in the Chase. He is still a legitimate threat for the title, and the next two tracks are some of his best. Now is definitely the time for the entire No. 24 team to make a move in the standings.

My biggest surprise was definitely David Ragan. What a spectacular race for the No. 6 UPS team. He ran up near the front all day and was the best contender for Roush-Fenway all afternoon.

His seventh-place finish was well deserved. Great job by that entire team.

The big losers in this race were Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kasey Kahne and the Auto Club Speedway itself.

What is it going to take to get the No. 88 team to finish a race? Once again, Junior ran near the front, and was a strong contender. But, I really question the call with about 20 laps to go to come to pit road for tires. That was not a smart move in my eyes.

He was running in the top ten, and probably would have finishes there if not better had they stayed out with the other lead cars. But instead, they come in, get new rubber and get stuck in a hornets nest of chaos.

Less than ten laps left, he gets pushed by Elliott Sadler and then a major wreck occurs. Once again, the No. 88 car has a good run and a horrible finish. This team needs to catch a break, and soon.

Kahne really stepped out of character, which was something I never expected. After a caution for debris, Kahne gets caught up in not one, but both of the final cautions in the race.

Afterwards, Kahne says something that maybe a lot of drivers want to say, but really aren't sure if they would be allowed to.

"NASCAR threw a debris caution for no debris," Kahne said after being involved in the multi-car accident with Junior and others. "We had a bad race to get a caution to put a show on for the fans."

If anything comes of these comments, I would be really shocked. However, someone had to speak their mind on the issue.

Finally, the ultimate loser for the weekend was the Auto Club Speedway. Yes, that is right, the host track was the one who suffered the most.

Does Brian France not see the obvious? This track does not draw the fans like it did when it first opened. I'm sorry, but when over half the grandstands are empty, it is not a big crowd. The capacity for this track is 90,000. They made an estimate that there were 70,000 people there.

There is no question that when Atlanta and California switched dates on the schedule, Atlanta got the better deal. Their race was at night, just like California's was last season, and they had a near sold out crowd.

The fans just have not taken to the Auto Club Speedway having two races like NASCAR expected. It is time to take one of those dates away and give it to a track that will bring in the fans.

Up next will be the NASCAR Banking 500 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. If Johnson continues the momentum he gained on Sunday, not only will he win Saturday night, he'll surely wrap up a record fourth-straight title.


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