Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kenseth goes back-to-back in SoCal

Matt Kenseth's victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 might've been a surprise to some, but his win Sunday evening in the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana was anything but. After all, it was Kenseth's third win at that track, and the fifth straight spring race win for car owner Jack Roush.

Yes, Roush-Fenway Racing seems to have the 2-mile oval just east of Los Angeles figured out. And Kenseth, who went winless in 2008, became just the fifth driver to open the season with back-to-back wins -- and the first to do it since Jeff Gordon won Daytona and Rockingham to open the 1997 season.

Gordon went on to win his second then-Winston Cup championship that season.

Gordon finished second and was strong throughout the race -- certainly stronger than he had been at any point on the intermediate tracks last season. Gordon, a four-time champion and owner of 81 checkered flags in his Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup career, has gone 43 races without a win, but he's getting closer.

In fact, he might've won Sunday had his car not gone tight on him as he pursued Kenseth in the closing laps.

"It they keep giving me cars like that, we're going to win some races this year," Gordon said. "I'm so excited on one side because we ran so well and we started out the season so great, but I'm still mad on the other side because I felt like we had what it took to win tonight."

Kyle Busch finished third, falling just short in his bid for the historic triple. Busch dominated both the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series races on Saturday, leading 238 of the combined 250 laps.

He became the first driver ever to win two NASCAR national touring series races on the same day -- though that record is a little misleading; NASCAR rarely runs two national touring series at the same track on the same day. NASCAR ran the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races on the same day at Richmond last September, but that was because weather forced the postponement of both races.

Still, to win two races and finish third in the other? An impressive weekend for a driver with all the talent in the world. And considering what he said after the race -- actually sounding pleased with a third-place finish, complementary of his team and speaking highly of the battle Kenseth and Gordon waged for the victory -- it sounds like Busch's attitude might be catching up.


No driver has ever won the first three races of the season, but Kenseth has a good chance to do just that as the series moves to Las Vegas this weekend for the Shelby 427. Roush-Fenway has been strong at the 1.5-mile oval, and Kenseth won the race in 2003 -- the only race he won on the way to his then-Nextel Cup title.

Carl Edwards won last year's race, while Greg Biffle finished third.

Can Kenseth keep the momentum and give rookie crew chief Drew Blickensderfer his third win in as many races? Possibly; I'll give my pick on Thursday or Friday.

One more thing before I give the results from Sunday's race ... why does NASCAR insist on starting these races so late, especially with inclement weather in the area? NASCAR started the Daytona 500 at 3:30 p.m. EST, even with rain threatening -- if NASCAR had pushed the start time up even an hour, maybe they get the whole race in.

Sunday saw five caution flags -- four of them for persistent rain showers. The rain never amounted to much, and NASCAR got the full distance in, but if NASCAR knows weather might be a factor, why not move up the start time to adjust? The sport's governing body should do everything in its power to make sure the full race is run, and that includes moving up the start time if weather appears to be a possibility.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just a fan.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500
1. Matt Kenseth**
2. Jeff Gordon*
3. Kyle Busch
4. Greg Biffle*
5. Kurt Busch*
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Carl Edwards*
8. Tony Stewart*
9. Jimmie Johnson*
10. Brian Vickers
11. Juan Pablo Montoya*
12. Kasey Kahne
13. David Stremme*
14. David Reutimann
15. Michael Waltrip
16. Jamie McMurray
17. David Ragan
18. Travis Kvapil
19. Clint Bowyer
20. Bobby Labonte
21. Reed Sorenson
22. Marcos Ambrose
23. Sam Hornish Jr.
24. Casey Mears
25. Elliott Sadler
26. Joey Logano
27. Martin Truex Jr.
28. Ryan Newman
29. A.J. Allmendinger
30. Robby Gordon
31. John Andretti*
32. Jeff Burton
33. David Gilliland
34. Jeremy Mayfield
35. Aric Almirola
36. Scott Riggs
37. Paul Menard
38. Kevin Harvick
39. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
40. Mark Martin*
41. Scott Speed
42. Dave Blaney
43. Joe Nemechek

* led a lap (5 bonus points)
** led most laps (5 more bonus points)

No comments: