Pepsi 500

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

How the race was won

Johnson
Johnson Back in the shop in North Carolina, that's where this race was won. Jimmie Johnson's crew provided him with a stout hod rod that was the fastest the moment it came off the truck on Friday. Johnson won the pole and was never even challenged in Sunday's race.

Stories of the race

B-O-R-I-N-G. The only on-track pass for the lead – outside of Johnson retaking it after pit stops – was AJ Allmendinger nosing out Johnson to lead Lap 1. After that, it was a total snoozer.

Johnson reasserts himself. The two-time defending champion has been lying in the weeds while Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards battle it out. This has been a pattern for Johnson, who in the past has reserved his best stuff for right about now – when the Chase is about to begin.

Broken lights. What's up with lights falling onto the track while the race is going on? This happened twice, conceivably because of wind jarring lose the lights on the backstretch. Talk about debris cautions.

Chase implications

Nothing has been settled, meaning next Saturday night at Richmond will be an all-or-nothing affair. Just 109 points separate David Ragan in 13th and Matt Kenseth in ninth. Taking it one step further, Tony Stewart is 138 points up on Ragan, meaning an early accident at Richmond could prove fatal.

Kasey Kahne finally stops some of the bleeding and still doesn't make up any ground. He finished eighth, but the guys he's chasing (Clint Bowyer and Ragan) finished right behind him.

Get this man a contract

The Red Bull folks in Austria need to wake up and re-sign AJ Allmendinger, pronto. Of the so-called open wheel drivers, it's Allmendinger who consistently runs up front. Not Montoya. Allmendinger finished 14th on Sunday, six spots in front of Montoya. If Red Bull decides to put Scott Speed in a car next year over Allmendinger, they're giving up a known quantity. Someone will snatch him up. Only problem for Allmendinger is the good rides are few and far between right now.

Mr. Underrated

Matt Kenseth
Kenseth Matt Kenseth flies under the radar, mostly because of his low-key personality. But if Kenseth gets into the Chase – and right now he's sitting somewhat comfortably in ninth – he would join Jimmie Johnson as the only two drivers to qualify for all five of NASCAR's playoffs. That should count for something.

In other news

Kyle Busch didn't leave California without a victory. He won the Nationwide race, giving him 18 total victories (between Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck) on the season.

Grading the race

At this point, we're just piling on. Let's face it, Auto Club Speedway is built for open wheel cars, not stock cars. This race is never going to be great until the track is re-configured. We'll stop the criticism at that. Grade: D-

From the source

Jeff Gordon: "I've said before that it doesn't do any good to be in the Chase if you're not competitive enough to win races and battle for the championship."

Denny Hamlin: "This race car puts you in such a tight box of what you can work on. You basically run the same setup everywhere you go. So when a guy gets an advantage like the 99 (Carl Edwards) have and 18 (Kyle Busch) have and now the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) has definitely caught up, it just makes it that more magnified when we come to a big race track like that how good their car is."