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Last Updated Monday, Oct 18, 2010 1:27 am, EDT

Pepsi MAX 400

Status: Final Auto Club Speedway

Race Capsule

Auto Club Speedway
  • What:

    Race 30 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, CA

  • When:

    October 10, 2010 3:16 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    200

  • Track Length:

    2. miles

  • Race Length:

    400.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,270,654

Drivers to Watch

Jamie McMurray McMurray won the pole for the spring race at Fontana, but he ended up 17th in the race. McMurray has five top-10 finishes in 14 starts at the track. "I don't know what it is about racing at Fontana, but it's a track that I really enjoy coming to," said McMurray. "Auto Club Speedway is more of a driver's track where you as the driver can really dictate your times by which line you choose on the race track."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has three wins, seven top-fives and a series-high 12 top-10s in 17 starts at Fontana. "Fontana is typically a good track for me and the 17 team, so it's good to travel there this weekend, especially after a strong run at Kansas last week," said Kenseth. "I really feel like we've been steadily improving on our program lately, so heading to Fontana, where our team has run well in the past, should hopefully mean another great run."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya started second in the February race at Fontana and led 29 laps before his engine failed. A year ago, Montoya finished third after leading 78 laps. "If it wasn't for a blown motor in the spring I think we could have easily competed for the top spot at the end of the day," said Montoya. "This Target team is looking for some redemption heading back to California this time around."
Kasey Kahne Kahne has one win and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Fontana. "We've usually been pretty strong on that type of track, and we've had some success there before," said Kahne. "It's definitely good to be going to a track you feel you can run well at. We need a good run after our luck the last few weeks."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex has two top-10 finishes in nine starts at Fontana. "We didn't run that well there back in February," said Truex. "But that was only our second race with this team. We've come a long ways since then, and we've had some pretty good runs at the intermediate tracks. So I feel we can have a pretty good day (on Sunday) if we get a little racing luck."
Greg Biffle Biffle climbed one position in the points, up to eighth, 85 behind Johnson. Biffle has one win (February 2005), four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 15 Fontana starts. He was 20th in this race last year and 10th in February. He has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts, including two in the top five. "I really can't wait to get to California," Biffle said. "I love that track partly because we've had success there but also because it's a lot of fun and it is fast and challenging. A lot of strategy comes into play at California, and that usually makes it interesting, too. I also really like going out west because I get to see my family. My mom usually comes to most of the West Coast races, and it's always good to get to spend time with her."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson led a major scramble in the standings, creating the closest battle after the third race of the Chase since it was enacted in 2004. The four-time Cup champion moved up one position to first place but has only an eight-point lead. Better yet for Johnson, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., is one of his most successful tracks -- he has five wins, 10 top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 15 starts there. Johnson has won the last two races at the two-mile oval and has a streak of seven top-10 finishes at Fontana with six top-fives in that stretch. "I'm excited to go back," he said. "We have our Jimmie Johnson Foundation major fund-raiser that takes place in my hometown (El Cajon) -- the area of my hometown, I should say. We do a lot of great things ... raise some money for a variety of things. This year it is again going to be a grant system for school districts in the area. I'm very excited to go back although there is a lot of work for me going home for the golf tournament and the dinner that is beforehand. But I really enjoy the race track. I enjoy the weather, the atmosphere, In-N-Out Burger, Mexican restaurants I am fond of in the area. It is always good to go home. There is a certain feeling about it. I won my first race there. My 48th race there and there are a lot of cool things about that race track for me. Oh yeah, fish tacos, lots of lime. Post-race add a Corona to the mix and we are in good shape."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has only four top-10 finishes in 17 starts at Fontana, but one of them was a runner-up finish in the fall race of 2006. "We have had some decent runs at California but just hadn't had the luck," said Earnhardt. "The thing about California is that you can hunt around as the groove changes. You've got to have that adjustability in your setup."
Joey Logano Logano finished fifth in the February race at Auto Club Speedway. "Fontana is one of the tracks where I think you can really see the progression of this race team," he said. "The first time we came here I really struggled and ran in the back of the pack the entire time. Last year in the fall, we improved quite a bit and came away with a top-15 finish. In February, we ran solid all day and finished in the top five, which was like a win for us at this track."
Mark Martin Martin has finished fourth in the last two races at Fontana, giving him nine top-10 finishes in 18 starts at the track. Martin's lone win at the two-mile facility came on May 3, 1998 when he led a whopping 165 laps. "When we raced in Fontana in February, our car was really, really good," said Martin. "Since then, we've gone from the wing back to the spoiler and that, obviously, threw a wrench in our performance this year."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer will be seeking his third straight top-10 finish at Fontana and fourth in the last five races. "California is one of those deals where you better show up fairly close or you are going to struggle," said Bowyer. "You might get yourself a decent top-10 finish, but you are going to have to fight long and hard for it all weekend long. We were very good out there in the spring."
Ryan Newman Newman has only four top-10 finishes in 15 starts at Fontana. "We had a really good car in February at California," said Newman. "I really was the most competitive I've been at California in a long time. At least that's the way I felt, even though we had the engine failure. We showed what we are capable of out there on a couple of those long runs before we had the engine problem."
Jeff Burton Burton, who lost two points positions and is 101 out of the lead, has no wins, six top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 20 Fontana starts. He was third there in February, but in the two races before that he was 30th and 32nd. "It is different than any other race track we run on, as far as I am concerned. It has real low grip, very flat corners, a lot of speed," Burton said. "It is completely different than Atlanta. It is completely different than (Las) Vegas. Vegas is very high grip, completely different. So we have three very distinctive mile-and-a-half and two-mile race tracks. You can perform well at one and not well at the others."
Kyle Busch Busch fell the most of any driver in the standings, losing four positions to seventh, but is still only 80 points out of first place. He has one win at Fontana, in this event in 2005, four top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 12 starts there. He was 24th last October and 14th in February. Before last October's race he had eight straight top-10 finishes there. "I like California; it's fun," Busch said. "It's really wide and it's kind of flatter than Michigan, so it's a little harder to kind of get ahold of, but you can really spread out. There, in the spring, we saw guys all the way down at the white line. We saw guys all the way up at the wall. It seemed to be a really good race there. It will be a really fun race track. It's widened out and it's become where you can race all over it, and with the race being as long as it is, you need to take a lot of time working through traffic and being able to have a good car and all that. It's the same thing every week. California is just another one of those race tracks that seems to suit Jimmie (Johnson) really, really well. He's been in contention to win the past six races there, I think, and he's probably won four of them. That's another place we know he'll be fast. Again, we just hope for a solid day and that our efforts will put us in a good enough position. And if they don't, then we weren't good enough."
Jeff Gordon Gordon climbed three positions to fifth in the standings, 70 points out of first place. He has three wins, 10 top-five finishes and no other top-10s at Fontana in 20 starts, including second place in both races last year. He was 20th in February. "You have to have good power (at Auto Club Speedway), have to have good balance in the car," Gordon said. "Right now there's a lot of stuff going around the garage with teams that are trying to run soft in the back versus stiff in the back, and at a track like that you can really experiment with because the straightaways are so long and it's a big, fast race track to try to get the spoiler out of the air a little bit. Just trying to work that balance out. We do all that in simulation at the shop, and based on what we've been running, what we've been seeing in the garage area, that's running good and fast. You try it and if it's not working then you go in a different direction."
David Ragan Ragan has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Fontana, but feels optimistic about this weekend. "Roush has always been strong at California, and we should definitely be able to carry on that tradition this weekend," said Ragan. "We're taking the same car we had a good finish with in Michigan (11th). So we should be pretty fast."
Kevin Harvick Harvick gained two positions to third place, just 30 points out of the lead. The Bakersfield, Calif., native has never won at Fontana but has two top-five and six top-10 finishes in 16 starts. He was 10th in this event last year and second in February and has four top-10 finishes in his last five Fontana starts. "In February, I feel like I let one slip away there," Harvick said. "I was running the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) down, and I just brushed the wall and the car went really tight. We still had a good finish and Jeff (Burton) ran really well there, too. We're looking forward to going back. Obviously, a lot can change -- it's been a hot summer and the race track will be different -- but it's been a good race track for us over the last few years. We need to capitalize this week and make something happen. We feel good about where we are right now."
Tony Stewart Stewart, who remains 10th in the Chase, 127 points out of first place, has never won at Fontana but has four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 18 starts there. He was fifth last October and ninth in February, and he has four top-10s in the last five races there. "We're not out until we're mathematically out," Stewart said. "Who would have dreamed we would have two weeks in a row like we had the first two weeks. So it's proof it can happen. Talladega is still on the schedule (he laughed), so that can jumble everything up, too. So we've just got to go out and do what we did at Kansas and that's just go out and try to win the race and take what it gives us."
David Reutimann Reutimann has only one top-10 finish in seven starts at Fontana. "We've had a good car the last several weeks, but we keep getting run into," said Reutimann. "If we can run the whole race Sunday without anything bad happening, I think we can have a good day. And we need one after all that has happened the last few weeks."
Paul Menard Menard's 18th-place finish in the February race at Fontana was his best in seven starts at the track. But he feels good about this weekend. "We've had a couple of pretty strong runs these last two weeks, and I've been really proud of my guys and what we have been able to accomplish," said Menard. "We hope to have another good race this Sunday, too."
Brad Keselowski Keselowski finished 21st in February in his first Sprint Cup start at Fontana. He has finished fifth and third in his last two Nationwide Series races at the track. "Our cars are driving better on the intermediate tracks, not just for me, but for Kurt (Busch) and Sam (Hornish Jr.) as well," said Keselowski. "So I'm looking forward to this weekend."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Fontana. His best finish in five starts is 14th. "I'm excited to get to the race track every week these days, and the fact that we are headed to California is just an added bonus for me," said Allmendinger, a native of Los Gatos, Calif. "People know we're there week in and week out, and that's a step in the right direction."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin dropped out of first place but is only eight points out. However, Fontana is not one of his best tracks: He has no wins, one top-five finish and three top-10s in nine starts there. He was 29th in February and 37th in this race last year. "Last year was a case of worrying about what the other teams were doing and who was where on the track compared to me," Hamlin said. "I paid for it because I didn't worry about my race and I know much better now. We obviously won't know where we are until we get to the track and practice on Friday, but we have improved a ton on these kinds of tracks so that gives us some confidence. We were good there last year and good again this spring before cutting a tire, and then we had two good runs at Michigan this summer so we have some success to build on."
Kurt Busch Busch dropped two spots in the standings to sixth in the Chase, 70 out of the lead. Busch has one win (2002), four top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes in nine Fontana starts. He was sixth there in February and eighth and fifth in the two races before that. "Fuel-mileage races are fun for crew chiefs and the driver," Busch said. "You're working together in a fashion where you both help each other when it comes to fuel mileage. The crew chief is counting on the driver to save fuel and the driver is counting on the crew chief and the team engineer running the fuel mileage to have a little bit extra so that you don't run out. Because when you run out like Tony Stewart did at Loudon, it will cost you big."