Back in California! A much bigger stage and a much faster pace and points were on the line for the Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway. The pre-season Clash at the LA Coliseum was a nice preview but the speed at Fontana with those “5 wide” grooves is something else.
Race day did not disappoint. Drivers put cars all over the track looking for advantage just a turn or two from the starts. It was a pit road showcase as the age of the pavement put this NextGen suspension package to the test. A dozen cautions put the crews in the spotlight with a pit stop routine that still may have a kink or two. Restarts were a scramble to grab a position or set up in a groove for a possible advantage move next lap around.
This one was unpredictable. Just as it looked like Tyler Reddick was on the fast track with two stage wins, tire issues and contact with Byron in the #24 put him on pit road with heavy damage.
Defending Cup Champion Kyle Larson was able to put the HendrickCars.com #5 in the position to run for the win. He only had 28 laps with the field behind him and one of those was the one that really mattered. Austin Dillon, Eric Jones, Daniel Suárez and Joey Logano rounded out the top 5.
The Daytona 500 was a good one but the race at Fontana gave us a variety of speed, action and strategy that we hope carries this season. Lead changes and pack tangles gave the drivers a real challenge and the fans had the benefit of seeing it all play out.
This race showed us that NASCAR has a show and it’s a good one! There are more races on big tracks before we get a real look at this NextGen package on the short tracks of Virginia and Tennessee. Vegas is up next with Phoenix to follow. We’ll even get a early road course in at Circuit Of The Americas.