Joe Gibbs Racing had an amazing run today at Auto Club Speedway. All of the Gibbs drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth all had strong cars, running 1-2-3 during an early portion on the race. Initially, it looked as though this would be a typical Auto Club Speedway race, but thanks to a late race caution, this race finish will surely be one of the most exciting ones of the NASCAR season.
When the green flag dropped, the Gibbs cars established their speed while the Hendrick Motorsports cars struggled and fell out of the top twenty, each one lacking pace all weekend. The first major incident of the race had implications for a lot of teams. Timmy Hill was staying out of trouble when his car cut an oil line. As a result, oil was on the track and the cars of Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, and Clint Bowyer got into the wall, suffering slight damage.
The race went on, and many teams struggled with the cars ground clearance on the bumpy Fontana track. Joey Logano was caught by Fox’s camera with splitter damage, but managed to keep a fast pace throughout the whole race. Marcos Ambrose and Matt Kenseth both ended up cutting tires over the course of the race, with Ambrose’s destroying the rear of the car.
It appeared as though this race would continue to fall down the same monotonous path as a typical race at Auto Club Speedway. However, a late race caution that prompted a restart changed everything, and created storylines that will be relevant for the rest of the season.
Joey Logano held position over defending race winner Tony Stewart, who got a good restart, but Logano blocked him nearly into the grass. Stewart was visibly angry, but Logano began to pull away, only to be caught by Denny Hamlin, hungry to beat the driver that put him back in the news and ignited the newest feud in NASCAR.
Logano and Hamlin went down to the wire. Turn four, last lap, the race all on the line. And Logano drove it in too deep. He went into Hamlin in a mirror image of the wreck that Logano had with Ryan Newman at Michigan. Hamlin had had enough, and immediately dumped Logano into the turn four wall. Unfortunately for Hamlin, he also wrecked himself, sending himself to the hospital, and totaling the car.
After the race, Tony Stewart immediately confronted Logano about his driving at the restart, and Logano did throw a punch. Stewart absolutely berated Logano to Steve Byrnes and said that he is going to get his “ass kicked”. The officials at NASCAR surely will have some money to request for this week, but drivers luckily have a week to simmer off before they do it all again at the short track of Martinsville.
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