FONTANA, Calif. – There are still some residuals from last weekend's Daytona 500. The wreck and the rain were still abuzz Friday at Auto Club Speedway, site of Sunday's Auto Club 500.
Here's what we learned:
Earnhardt acknowledged Friday that he was racing harder than usual when he turned into Vickers, explaining that he was trying to get back on the lead lap before the rain came.
"I definitely could have used better judgment coming back up on the racetrack," Earnhardt said. "I had to get my lap back to have a shot at winning the race and the rain was coming. It was early in the race, but the race was getting ready to be rained out. Everybody knew that.
"When you're running real hard, trying to win and you got rain coming and you're a lap down and you need to get it back, you race hard. … I've made mistakes before and it probably won't be the last one I make."
Earnhardt said he called Vickers, who told the TV audience that he thought Earnhardt wrecked him intentionally. Earnhardt wanted to clear that up.
"I wanted to make sure that he knew it wasn't intentional and that I didn't have a problem with him," Earnhardt said. "I think we got that cleared up."
2. Stewart-Haas Racing is looking legit. We were withholding judgment last week on Tony Stewart and his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing, because what happens at Daytona isn't indicative of what happens the rest of the season. But Stewart and Ryan Newman made it clear Friday that they are ready to contend this season.
Stewart, who left Joe Gibbs Racing to form his own team in 2009, clocked the 17th-fastest lap in the first practice session for Sunday's Auto Club 500, while Newman was fifth-fastest. Though neither topped the charts, and Stewart was more middle of the pack, they both were fast.
Why is this important?
Because the consensus is if you're good on the intermediate tracks, which Auto Club Speedway is, then you're going to be good throughout the season because the majority of tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule are intermediate tracks.
Stewart backed up a decent practice with a solid qualifying effort. He'll start 11th Sunday. Newman 28th.
3. Joey Logano's still having a tough time. Just two laps into practice, the 18-year-old rookie was already into the wall. This coming off a tough go at Daytona where he wrecked in the Bud Shootout, hit the wall in practice and wrecked out of the 500 early, finishing dead last.
Logano will not be forced to use his backup car.
4. Keep an eye on Jamie McMurray. The lame duck Roush Fenway driver continues to look impressive, qualifying third for Sunday's race.
McMurray, who's in a fight for the fourth Roush seat with teammate David Ragan, was great at Daytona until he got caught up in a wreck and should be good Sunday on one of his better tracks.
5. A plane carrying 40 members of Michael Waltrip's crew lost an engine en route to California. The plane was forced to land in Las Vegas, where a bus transported the crew the rest of the way to Fontana, Calif., where they arrived around 10:15 p.m. PT Thursday.
According to one person on board, the incident was minor.
"For us, we didn't even know it was going on until they told us," said Ty Norris, general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing. "We landed with absolutely no incident and there was no issue at all."