Stewart wins rain-shortened race in California
March 25, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart picked up his second win of the season with a lot of help from Mother Nature on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
With showers on the way to the two-mile Southern California racetrack, Stewart passed Kyle Busch on lap 86 of the scheduled 400-mile race. He held it when the rain arrived on lap 123, forcing the first and only caution.
During the caution, Stewart appeared to be making a pit stop along with all of the other frontrunners, but Stewart faked second-place Denny Hamlin at the last second and veered back onto the track. Hamlin, the pole sitter, passed the commitment line on pit road and was forced to stop, as did Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin. Kyle Busch also decided not to pit and moved into the second position.
The rain intensified shortly after, prompting NASCAR officials to halt the Auto Club 400 after 129 laps were completed. Officials then called it 30 minutes later.
Stewart won five of the last 10 races last year to claim his third title in the series. He won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first time earlier this month.
Busch finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, who won this race one year ago, and Carl Edwards.
Sixth through 10th were: Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Johnson, who holds the track record with five wins.
Martin, Hamlin and Kenseth placed 11th through 13th, respectively.