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Sunday, August 31
Johnson Dominates for Third Win on Season
By Reid Spencer, Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
FONTANA, Calif. (August 31, 2008) - Forget the rivalry between Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.
In Sunday’s Pepsi 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, there was only one car that counted, the No. 48 Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson led 228 of 250 laps and held off a late-race challenge from Greg Biffle, who lost ground when the water temperature in his No. 16 Ford skyrocketed to 260 degrees when a paper wrapper stuck to his grille after a restart on Lap 223.
As the laps wound down, Biffle told his team, “Doing all I can, man. I can't catch him. He’s beating me too bad in (Turns) 3 and 4.”
Johnson beat Biffle to the finish line by 2.076 seconds. Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth.
In winning his third race of the season and the 36th of his career -- breaking a tie with Mark Martin for 17th on the all-time victory list -- Johnson also shattered Biffle’s record of 168 laps led at Fontana, set in 2006.
Johnson also qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with one race to go – Saturday at Richmond – before the 12-driver field is set. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton also clinched spots. Busch and Edwards already had clinched spots.
Johnson’s dominance forced other teams to gamble in the pits. Biffle, Edwards, AJ Allmendinger, Brian Vickers and Ryan Newman took two tires on Lap 163 and held the top five positions for a restart on Lap 166.
Less than two laps after the restart, however, Johnson had regained the lead after passing Biffle through Turns 3 and 4.
Two tires didn’t work, but neither did four.
After a slower-than-usual pit stop on Lap 183 -- under caution for Robby Gordon’s spin off Turn 4 -- Johnson restarted fourth on Lap 186. Within three laps he had run down David Reutimann, Edwards and Biffle to regain the top spot.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
Race Recap - Slideshow click here
Dave Blaney (left) - who was fastest in final practice Saturday - visits with "Sons of Anarchy" star Ron Perlman...
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here
The Race: Pepsi 500
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Track: 2-mile oval
The Distance: 500 miles/250 laps
TV: ESPN & TSN, 8 p.m. (AT)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
2007 Polesitter: Kurt Busch
Pre-Race Schedule: local track time, Friday — Practice, 12-1:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 3:40 p.m. Saturday —Practice, 4-4:45 and 5:20-6:20 p.m.; (All Times Local — PT)
Year-To-Date Race Results & Driver Point Standings click here
Broadcast Times - AT*
Practice: Friday, Aug 29 (SPEED at 4 p.m.)
Qualifying: Friday, Aug 29 (SPEED at 7:30 p.m.)
Practice: Saturday, Aug 30 (SPEED at 8 p.m.)
Final Practice: Saturday, Aug 30 (SPEED at 9 p.m.)
RaceDay: Sunday, Aug 31 (SPEED at 6 p.m.)
Pre-Race: Sunday, Aug 31 (ESPN & TSN at 8 p.m.)
Race: Sunday, Aug 31 (ESPN & TSN at 9 p.m.)
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Qualifying Notes & Starting Lineup
Jimmie Johnson won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Pepsi 500 with a lap of 39.912 seconds,
Starting Lineup click here
- This is his 17th pole in 244 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
- This is his fourth pole and 19th top-10 start in 2008.
- This is his first pole in 12 races at Auto Club Speedway.
- AJ Allmendinger (second) posted his sixth top-10 start of 2008 and his first in two races at Auto Club
Speedway. This is his best career start.
- Jeff Gordon (third) posted his ninth top-10 start at Auto Club Speedway. It is his 17th in 25 races this
- Patrick Carpentier (fifth) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify for this race include: Tony Raines.
- Carl Vs. Kyle: Emerging Rivals Fight For Chase Momentum...When Carl Edwards (No. 99 AFLAC Ford) bumped Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) out of his way on Lap 470 at Bristol Motor Speedway, he was doing more than just trying to win the race. He was sending a message to Busch – and the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field – that he is a true contender for the championship and won’t back down from anybody.
Edwards has been chasing Busch for the top spot the entire season and has narrowed the gap with consecutive wins at Michigan and Bristol. The two drivers have combined to win six of the last seven races and 14 of 24 on the season. Edwards was the runner-up in three of Busch’s victories and Busch has finished second in each of Edwards’ last two victories.
The next round of the battle is slated for Auto Club Speedway on Sunday evening, a place where each driver has succeeded. Edwards won the February race at the Southern California track, while Busch earned his first career win there in 2005.
So far, the two are the only drivers to clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Busch has earned the top seed and will start with at least 80 bonus points (10 points for each win). Edwards has clinched the second seed and will have at least 50 bonus points.
- Bristol Blurs Bubble Picture...
Two races remain before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the 12 Chase participants are far from set. Only 101 points separate the drivers currently in positions 11 through 14. Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) (11th place), Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet) (12th) and David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford) (13th) each moved up one position after Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) finished 40th at Bristol, dropping him to 14th in the standings.
Furthermore, seventh-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) is only 141 points ahead of Ragan, the first driver on the “wrong” side of the bubble.
"I've felt like we've had a chance to be in the Chase since the beginning of the year,” Ragan said. “Our AAA Ford has been fast every week and as a team we haven't made many mistakes. We deserve to be in the position we are in and just have to take these last two races one at a time."
Ragan may have some difficulty catching the field at Auto Club Speedway, where he has yet to register a top-10 finish in three starts. His Driver Rating of 77.4, is 18th-best, the lowest of the drivers he is battling for a spot in the Chase.
- Top 35: No. 66 Chevrolet Leaps Into Locked-In Position...Scott Riggs (No. 66 State Water Heater Chevrolet) finished 27th at Bristol, bringing his Joe Custer-owned Chevrolet to 34th in the owner standings above Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 Penske Truck Rental Dodge) who finished 37th. The No. 77, owned by Roger Penske, sits 35th in the standings, the final locked-in position.
Each week the top 35 cars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup owner standings are locked in to the race, regardless of qualifying time. The remaining eight positions are set based on qualifying.
California-native AJ Allmendinger will have to make the Pepsi 500 on qualifying time in the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota owned by Dietrich Mateschitz. The team is currently 36th in owner standings, 14 points behind the No. 77.
Mike Skinner (No. 00 Champion Mortgage Toyota), another California native, will attempt to put the Michael Waltrip-owned car into the race. Skinner, the all-time pole leader in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, is temporarily replacing rookie Michael McDowell to help the team make races. Skinner filled the same role for Allmendinger for five races earlier this season.
- Celebrities Aplenty at ACS...Several stars from various entertainment fields will be at Auto Club Speedway this weekend in different capacities. Actor/producer and host of the “The Price Is Right” Drew Carey will serve as Grand Marshal for Sunday’s Pepsi 500 and give the command for the drivers to start their engines. Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag from the hit MTV show “The Hills” will be the honorary starters and wave the green flag. Former American Idol runner-up Bo Bice will be singing the National Anthem.
Other celebrities expected at the track over the weekend include UFC Hall of Famer and former champion Randy Couture, two-time “Dancing With The Stars” winner Cheryl Burke and actor Ron Perlman of “Hellboy.”
- Earnhardt Jr., Menard Visit Hit TV Shows...Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make a special visit to the set of his favorite television show “The Office” while in Southern California for the Pepsi 500.
“I’m so excited to finally get to meet the cast of ‘The Office’,” Earnhardt said. “Jim's my favorite character. He's everybody's favorite. I just think it's a great show. It's kind of like ‘Cheers’ and ‘Seinfeld’ were in their hay day. To me that's what it's like for this generation or for this decade. It's just a good show. It's a really funny show, well-written, great cast and it's just done really well.”
Paul Menard (No. 15 Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet) will also be making a trip to Hollywood, touring the set of ‘CSI’ on Thursday.
- Burton Reaches Milestone...Jeff Burton will add his name to an exclusive list on Sunday when he starts his 500th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Burton, who will be the 29th driver to reach the 500-start mark, made his series debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July 1993. He is 30th all-time with 20 wins and has compiled 114 top-five and 205 top-10 finishes.
“It’s pretty hard to believe I’m coming up on my 500th start,” Burton said. “Professionally, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Competing in NASCAR’s top level series has been a lifelong dream and I’m fortunate that I have been doing what I love for as long as I have, but I still believe my best years are ahead of me. I’ve learned a lot over the years and this environment has made me a better person because of it. Racing is something I dreamed of as a kid and I’m fortunate that I am doing it.”
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