Sunday, February 22, 2009

Live on Type Delay: 2009 Auto Club 500

Nine miles from the famed Irwindale Speedway, near Los Angeles California, is the Auto Club Raceway in Panoma. Realizing you are at the wrong track, you continue east on I 210 until for another nineteen miles, and you find Auto Club Speedway. That is where today's NASCAR Sprint Cup race takes place.

The Star Spangled Banner was not sung by an Adam Sandler impersonater, as was the case at Daytona, and everyone agrees that we must put Daytona behind us and move forward. It is green flag time in California, and that flag is waved by an enthusiastic and pretty young Brunette woman.

Pole winner Brian Vickers had to go to the back of the field due to an engine change after qualifying, so Jamie McMurray starts on the pole. He doesn't stay there long, as Jimmie Johnson leaps into the lead. Five laps later Johnson has gained one second on the rest of the field, Kyle Busch has moved from tenth to fifth position, Brian Vickers has moved up to thirty-fourth, and it is raining, so the caution flag flies.

Ryan Newman, who was Rev' Jim's pick to win this race, has to pit to replace the transponder he uses for team communications, then has to pit again because the end plate for his spoiler has fallen off. The light sprinkle, and the caution, continues until twenty-two laps are complete.

At the restart, Johnson does not get away so easily, as McMurray stays on his tail. Kyle Busch takes fourth place from his brother, Kurt, but Kurt gets it back. Now Greg Biffle takes fifth from Kyle Busch, and the top five now runs with Johnson in the lead, McMurray second, Jeff Gordon third, Kurt Busch fourth and Biffle fifth. On the next lap, Kurt Busch challenges Gordon for third, then takes that spot and gets second place from McMurray.

Thank you Darrell Waltrip for giving us a very good explanation as to why restrictor plates would be not good for racing at California. He saw the truck and Nationwide series races yesterday, too.

But the cars are pretty much spread out now, anyway, as the drivers and crew chiefs figure out what they need to do to make their cars more competitive., sponsor for Bobby Labonte is making their driver the new Kasey Kahne, featuring a desparate housewife who seems to have quite a bit of a "thing" for Labonte. We even get a glimpse into the blonde's filthy mind as she admits to having a "dream about a seven post machine and Bobby Labonte."

It doesn't seem as though offers links to porn sites, as their commercial suggests they might. That will have to be investigated in the near future.

The top five remain Johnson, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, and Jamie McMurray. Kyle Busch lurks in sixth, and we get another sprinkle caution on lap 43.

Kurt Busch takes the lead from the pit stops, and restarts in first on lap 48. Johnson is second, Jeff Gordon is third, Greg Biffle fourth, and McMurray fifth. Johnson retakes the lead before the lap is over. David Ragan has moved up to sixth, and Tony Stewart to seventh.

Jeff Gordon is racing Kurt Busch hard for second, going into the turns low while Busch goes high. This race for position will continue for a while. There is excitement further back in the field as Vickers is steadily making his way to the front. Matt Kenseth has made is way to the front and is now in fifth place. Four Roush cars--Biffle, Kenseth, McMurray, and Ragan--in the top ten at California. Why doesn't that seem unusual?

On lap 71, Jeff Gordon's persistence pays off, and he finally gets by Kurt Busch, while Johnson, the leader seems to be falling off some. Gordon gains on Johnson and cuts the two second lead in half. As they negotiate lapped traffic, Gordon is right behind Johnson and challenging for the lead. Jeff is using the entire track now, and literally runs between the wall and the grass. This is the wild driving Jeff Gordon of the good ol' days, and it is exciting. He takes the lead on lap 79.

Now all five of the Roush-Fenway cars are in the top ten, as Carl Edwards joins the party. Edwards has been moving up steadily through the field, from his starting spot of thirty-fifth. Again, no surprise.

Tony Stewart is happy with his car and is running steadily in sixth place.

Green flag pit stops begin on lap 83. Johnson pits on lap 85, and Gordon gives up the lead to pit on lap 86 and asked for no adjustments. He knows his car the way it is, and loves it. Biffle gets five bonus points for leading a lap and pits on lap 88. Edwards leads a lap and pits, so, with 90 laps gone, Jeff Gordon retakes the lead.

After the pit stops cycle through, its Jeff Gordon ahead of Jimmie Johnson by two seconds. Greg Biffle is third, Kurt Busch is fourth, and Matt Kenseth is fifth. Tony Stewart is still hangin' in sixth, enjoying the ride. Biffle passes Johnson for second, and Kenseth takes fourth from Dirty Kurty Busch. Meanwhile, we are still having visions of that woman and a seven post shaker rig.

Digger is multiplying, as we now see several animated gophers at the same time. Don't look, kids, bad things could happen.

Those of us who watch South Park know that cute animated wild animals can be much more dangerous than they appear.

Lap 111 and Jeff Gordon is more than two seconds ahead of Biffle. Johnson is still holding third, unchallenged. Kenseth is fourth, and Kurt Busch is fifth. Tony Stewart, in sixth is more than five seconds behind that group, followed by the other Busch, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, and Mark Martin.

At lap 126, as the time for pit stops approaches, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are battling for seventh. They are racing as racers, something that is always exciting to see, especially among racers of this quality. They are racing cleanly, but with no sign of giving the other an inch.

Carl prevails on lap 129 and takes seventh, as many more cars begin to pit under the green flag. Jeff Gordon gives up the lead with 123 laps to go, and Biffle pits with him this time. Biffle takes the lead out of the pits, and holds the lead while the pit stops cycle through. It's a whole new ballgame, but the same old Jack Roush show at California.

116 laps to go, and Jeff Gordon is catching Biffle, as Biffle works his way through lapped traffic, and that lapped traffic is fighting hard to stay on the lead lap. Johnson is still in third, but way back, Matt Kenseth is fourth, Kurt Busch is fifth, and the other Busch has made it back to sixth, past Stewart, who is in seventh. We believe that Carl Edwards must have lost some time in the pits.

Now we get a caution for rain and the back runners on the lead lap--Juan Pablo Montoya, David Stremme, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr breathe sighs of relief as they are now able to stay on the lead lap. All the leaders pit. Now Matt Kenseth is the first off of the pit lane.

Blogger's note. There are probably some fans out there who think this race is "boring." Writing the play by play as the race unfolds makes it fun, and the race is anything but "boring." The lesson here is to get as involved in the race as you can, just as many of you would watching the Super Bowl or the college basketball playoffs that pre-empt so many of our favorite programs.

148 laps into the race, we are still under caution. There has been some attrition due to mechanical problems, but all the cars that started are still on the track. There have been no accidents, and it's been a clean race so far.

Matt Kenseth leads the field to the restart, Greg Biffle is second, Jeff Gordon is third, Kurt Busch fourth, and Jimmie Johnson is fifth. Kasey Kahne drives the first car one lap down and is in front of the inside lane. As the green flag waves, Kenseth drops to the bottom and maintains the lead, while Gordon makes a move on Biffle, and takes second place. Johnson is now back in form, and quickly makes his way up to challenge Biffle for third, takes it, and is now racing his team mate and mentor, Darth, er, Jeff Gordon. Jeff races him hard, and maintains second for a lap or two, then on the next lap, with 94 to go, Johson goes high and passes Gordon.

Now Kyle Busch is still lurking in sixth, and is stealthfully sneaking up on the top five. Tony Stewart has fallen back to tenth.

As the predictable engine problems begin for some of the teams, another caution flies for rain, and the leaders pit again. Tony Stewart stays out and takes the lead. Here we go with the fuel strategy again, coupled with the uncertainty of finishing the 500 miles due to rain. Kenseth is, once again the first off of pit road.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Mark Martin also stayed out during the pit stops. Earnhardt, Jr was one of the cars reporting engine problems, and changing the spark plug wires didn't seem to fix anything.

Now, with two to go until restart, Stewart, Montoya, Martin, and the other cars that stayed out earlier pit, and Kenseth gets the lead back.

At the restart with 71 laps to go, it's Kenseth, Johnson, Gordon, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle. Kyle Busch restarts in sixth and quickly takes fifth place form Biffle, but Da Biff just as quickly takes that position back, then grabs fourth place from Kurt Busch for good measure.

62 laps to go, and Biffle is about to take third from Johnson. The Busch brothers are racing for fifth, and the younger Busch takes it. Fun stuff there.

With 55 laps to go, Jeff Gordon is seriously racing Kenseth for the lead, and Biffle is in their as well. With 54 to go, Gordon takes the lead on the inside,but Kenseth doesn't give it up that easily, and passes Gordon high. Then Gordon goes high and retakes the lead, and holds it, while Biffle takes second from Kenseth. Three seconds back, Kyle Busch is racing Jimmie Johnson hard, and this is some great racing. Johnson is driving the heck out of his car, nearly going sideways in the turns and holding his spot. Busch goes low, then high, and takes fourth.

Meanwhile, Mark Martin's engine finally gives out. Bad luck for other drivers, too, as Kevin Harvick's streak of finishing races is ended when the right front tire on the 29 car blows, and he hits the wall, bringing out a caution. Dale Jr takes his car to the garage as his engine has expired.

Kenseth takes the lead again coming out of the pits. David Stremme leads a lap while the others pit. With one lap to restart, Stremme pits.

With 33 laps to go, Kenseth restarts in the lead, with Jeff Gordon second, Kyle Busch third, Denny Hamlin fourth, and Kurt Busch fifth. Matt gets another great restart, but Gordon is right on his tail. If Kenseth wins the race, it will be attributed to his pit stops and restarts, as well as his overall driving expertise. Or because Gordon couldn't pass him.

With 19 laps to go, Gordon is making a move. He pulls up along side Kenseth, but Kenseth holds on for the lap. Gordon tries again, going high, but coming out of turn four, he gives up ground, and Kenseth increases his lead to nearly a second. Nobody else in this race matters--third placed Kyle Busch is four seconds behind them, and everyone else is way behind Busch.

We have to remark that it was great watching Gordon and Kenseth racing for the lead. We also have to admit that Auto Club California Speedway is for the experienced driver, because that is who has performed the best today.

Gordon isn't finished yet. With six laps to go he is gaining on Kenseth. This could be a very exciting finish. With four to go, lapped cars may make it more interesting. But now it looks as though Gordon has used up his tires, as he is falling back again.

Matt Kenseth takes the white flag, and it looks like he will make it two in a row. Great work for the Daytona 500 driver. This is one way to prove that he wasn't just lucky to win the 500.

Jeff Gordon finished second, Kyle Busch third, Greg Biffle fourth. Kurt Busch finished fifth, followed by Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson, and Brian Vickers.

California doesn't feature the greatest racing in the world, but it does offer a challenge to the drivers, and when there is racing, it is good racing. We had fun covering this race today, and it was anything but boring.

Even though they don't sponsor us, we would like to thank and Budweiser for some very entertaining commercials.

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