Race #2: The Auto Club 500

Matt Kenseth holds off Jeff Gordon to win the Auto Club 500, his second straight win to start the 2009 season. He is the first driver since Gordon in 1997 to win the first two races of the season. 

 

Kyle Busch couldn’t pull off the historic triple, but he did finish third in Sunday’s Auto Club 500 in California, trailing Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. 

Green Flag
The faint glimmer of hope to be found in Johnson’s struggles at Daytona (where the No. 48 finished 31st) died a quick death. Johnson dominated both practices at California, started the race second and immediately raced away to a one second lead. At least the caution on Lap 5 prevents Johnson from sucking the life out of this race for at least a few more laps.

Great News!
For the second week in a row, a race is undone by the weather. Having given the field the "one to go" sign, the clouds open up again. Wonderful. Five green-flag laps, 15 under caution — I know I’m fired up…

What’s More Annoying?
Endless shots of a Angie Harmon making an ass of herself in the flag stand or the fact that Johnson is out to a 33-second lead after just eight more green-flag laps?

Horrible, Horrible News
Joe Nemechek is on pit road, thus jeopardizing his dream of finishing in the top 36.

There He Goes Again
And Johnson takes the lead from Kurt Busch, who led two laps under caution. In fact, Johnson has led every green flag lap.

Maybe when Johnson laps Junior in three or four laps, Junior could, you know, take him out? Like he did to Vickers last Sunday?

Hallelujah!
On Lap 79, Jeff Gordon becomes the first driver not named Jimmie to lead a green-flag lap. Of course, those remaining fans not turned off by Johnson and all that he represents just switched to reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show.

What Race Are They Watching?
On the radio broadcast, the lead announcer just said the following: At Lap 92, we’ve already had eight lead changes among six drivers (I’m paraphrasing). Obviously, that construction makes it seem like this has been one hell of an exciting race, one chock full o’ furious action … um, I’m sorry, but, uh, what we’ve seen this far? Not quite a barn burner, at least to my eyes.

I’m Still Sober!
If you’ve been playing everybody’s favorite drinking game, Take a drink for every lap not led by a Hendrick Motorsports car during this race, you’re depressingly sober right now. Between them, Gordon and Johnson have led all but five laps through halfway.

More Rain!
Caution out for rain in Turn 3. Not sure whether to laugh or cry. Gordon and Johnson have made this a rather … dull affair. And the weather, apparently not severe and unlikely to euthanize tonight’s affair, is only enough to present us with us another bunch of parade laps … of course, that’s not terribly different than what we’ve seen so far, though at least the majority of those parade laps have been fast.

Apparently, Cream Does Rise to the Top
The top 10 coming out of the pits off the last round of stops: Kenseth, Biffle, Gordon, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Kyle Busch, Edwards, Stewart, McMurray, and Harvick.

Not a Michael Waltrip among them.

Four Cautions, No Crashes 
All for rain.

And three Hendrick Motorsports cars – Junior, Johnson, and Martin — appear to be having engine troubles.  

Martin Blowed Up
Mark Martin’s engine just gave up. Not a good omen for Johnson or Junior.

Caution No. 5
Brought to you not by rain, but by Kevin Harvick, who blew up and went hard into the outside wall, ending a series-leading 81 race streak of no DNFs. At virtually the same time, Junior goes to the garage with engine trouble. Make that two Hendrick cars out with bad engines — somewhere, Kyle Busch is smiling.

Kenseth makes up three positions on pit road and retakes the lead from Gordon. On the radio, Gordon and his crew acknowledge the fact that the team will need to talk about how to improve pitstops during the coming week.

Say What Now??
Did Dale Earnhardt Junior just tell Krista Voda from FOX that losing a Hendrick engine might be an anomoly? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great word, but if Junior isn’t careful, he might alienate some fans not necessarily accustomed to their driver being so … erudite.

And The Winner Is …
Matt Kenseth wins the Auto Club 500, beating Jeff Gordon to claim his second straight race. Kenseth becomes the first driver in 12 years, or since Gordon in 1997, to win the first two races of the year.