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WWD: Auto Club 500

Jonathan Baum
Yahoo Sports

How the race was won

Kenseth
Kenseth Matt Kenseth was strong and running at or near the front all day, but it may have taken Kevin Harvick's flat tire just before the final restart to seal the win for Kenseth, as then-second place Harvick was forced to pit and give up a shot at his second win in as many weeks. Once the final green waved, Kenseth drove away from Jeff Gordon and Co. and on to victory.

Story of the race

Kenseth winning without Robbie Reiser.

Another weekend of qualifying drama.

Give 'em credit

Kenseth, Chip Bolin and the No. 17 team, clearly.

Hendrick Motorsports (and Chevy in general). Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch looked pretty good. Same for Richard Childress Racing until Harvick's late problem (and, to a much lesser extent, Jeff Burton's bad restart). But nice run from Clint Bowyer.

Brian Vickers. Toyota gets its first top-10. Of course, the next Toyota was Dale Jarrett in 32nd, but it's a process. Dave Blaney earned Toyota's first Busch pole a day earlier and scored a top-10 in that race, too.

Kenseth for his Busch win and Mike Skinner for his truck victory.

Kurt Busch. Will he and his brother contend every week?

Mark Martin. Will he contend every week he decides to race?

What were they thinking?

Tony Stewart. Still notched a good finish, and potential spots lost here will mean nothing in the long run. But speeding on pit road again? For his part, Stewart didn't necessarily agree with the call.

Ultimately it didn't matter, but did Tony Eury Jr. cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. a lap on pit road when the caution came out due to a rules misunderstanding? And after a bad Daytona setup, will tension between the two Juniors reappear?

The No. 48 team. OK, this is harsh, as they had a great day, but they simply got beat in the pits late, leading to Johnson getting beat on the track. Of course, Johnson shared our lament over the frequency of late-race debris cautions ("I think we all saw it coming," he said) – in a sense, that's what really did him in.

Better luck next time

Harvick
Harvick That flat tire might have kept him from a two-race win streak to start the season.

David Reutimann. Wow, that was a rough crash.

DEI. Paul Menard carries the banner with an OK finish, but not a good day for the team's higher-profile cars.

Kasey Kahne. He might have had a good day, but his engine had other plans.

Stewart again looked good, but again fell short of the finish he deserved – not that a top-10 is so bad.

Those who went home early on Friday. Maybe the top 35 guaranteed spots should only be top 30. Michael Waltrip's qualifying time was faster than those of 10 drivers (including Dale Jarrett) who made the show.

By the way …

Mark Martin is the Nextel Cup points leader.

It was entertaining to see the Kenseth and Gordon renew their rivalry without spinning each other – though it might have gotten interesting if Gordon had anything for Kenseth over those final couple of laps.

Unleaded fuel made its debut. Good for NASCAR (seriously) here in 2007 (seriously).

Grading the race

Once again, an exciting finish saves an otherwise dull race. The two-milers, at their best, actually are pretty compelling. But this one wasn't – at least not until the late laps. The battles up front, the clutch pit stops, the dramatic finish – it's kind of like shooting a terrible round at your local public but grabbing a birdie on 18. It leaves you with a good taste in your mouth and wanting more. Grade: B-

From the source

Matt Kenseth: "I was looking forward to coming out [to California]. I didn't really know what to expect. Obviously, I'm very happy."

Mark Martin when asked about racing full-time after early success: "No."