Auto Club Rear View Mirror

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch won the 17th Annual Auto Club 400, his 25th victory in 298 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. He ties Matt Kenseth, Jim Paschal and Joe Weatherly for 24th in all-time victories. (Photo: Getty Images)

NASCAR needs a presence in Southern California and for the annual stop at Auto Club Speedway to succeed.

For the big league stock car racing to truly be considered a national sport a large and successful footprint has to be left in giant markets like Los Angeles. And that’s been an uphill battle for the last decade at Auto Club Speedway.

But based on Sunday’s 17th running of the Auto Club 400, there may be a positive turn – finally.

Thanks in no small part to the weather Gods providing absolutely perfect weather, a very healthy crowd turned out Sunday at ACS. Although the track did use some tarps to cover a few rows of seats near Turn 1, the rest of the grandstands were very well populated with a nearly packed infield also on display.

Track president Gillian Zucker told reporters there were more than 10,000 more tickets sold for this year’s race than a year ago.

Perhaps there’s a sign of better things ahead for a track that has had its share of challenges.

The decision to strip the Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway and give ACS a Labor Day weekend event will go down as one of the worst decisions in NASCAR history and immediately gave the track a bad reputation it’s been unable to shake.

The call to give ACS a pair of NASCAR weekends just did not work out. So wisely parent company International Speedway Corporation took one race from Fontana last year to give Kansas Speedway its coveted date. That, along with the reduction of the annual Cup race from 500 to 400 miles, was an immediate upgrade.

Since the track went to 400 miles, the races have been much better with a sense of immediacy to the on track product that just was not there for the 500 mile predecessors. Quite frankly more track operators have to follow this template but simply refuse to do so, robbing fans of added action and better racing.

So now with only one chance now to see the stars of NASCAR, attendance got a jump-start and good-sized crowds have again returned to Fontana.

After Sunday’s race, easily the best in track history and maybe one of the most memorable NASCAR races ever, interest should grow even more.

NASCAR needs to be in the Los Angeles area. Auto Club Speedway has evolved into a track that does produce interesting and at times exciting racing with its sometimes five wide action stretching across the speedway. 


Yes, things still get strung out and at times there are less than thrilling stretches of racing leaving fans to follow strategy and other stories. But NASCAR and Southern California have a long history together that needs many more chapters written at ACS in the future.

  • I’ve seen every Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway either in person or from afar, but Sunday’s was by far the best. The opening 100 miles may not have been very memorable, but the second half was a textbook example of how an event can get more dramatic as the finish nears. The slam bang finish, post race fireworks and buzz the race will undoubtedly give NASCAR in the coming days added up to nearly a perfect Sunday afternoon in Southern California.
  • Many fans will definitely view the two altercations on the final lap differently in the aftermath. So here’s my two cents. The Denny Hamlin-Joey Logano incident was nothing more than a racing incident and although the contact had significant ramifications, I did not see a move that constituted one driver trying to extract payback from another. Could Hamlin have left Logano more room? Probably. Should Logano have been more aware of where Hamlin was on the track? Most likely. But to me it was simply two drivers trying to win a Sprint Cup Series race no matter what their back-story or rivalry might be.
  • As for Tony Stewart’s beef with Logano for blocking him on the final restart, which resulted in fisticuffs being thrown on pit road and some serious, I have to vehemently disagree with Smoke. Did Logano block Stewart on that final green flag? Yes he did, but the land rush for restarts at places like Fontana basically means all bets are off. There is no yellow out of bounds line outside of Daytona and Talladega so everything is fair game. To me the object of auto racing is to keep the guy behind you BEHIND YOU, so although Stewart has every reason to voice his opinion and displeasure, in my opinion he’s wrong.
  • When the dust settled there were a couple of other surprises on Sunday including the unbelievable run by Kurt Busch to come from a pit road speeding penalty earlier in the race to finish fifth. And after five races of the season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has climbed to the top of the Sprint Cup Series point standings and will enjoy that perch during next week’s Easter holiday break.

Related Topics:

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