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Gordon leads California contingent

With three victories at Auto Club Speedway, Jeff Gordon has reason to enjoy visits to his home state. Gordon, who spent his early childhood in Vallejo, east of San Francisco, has also won five times at Infineon Raceway. He’s tied with Bobby Allison for the most wins in the state of California with eight.

But there’s another reason Gordon has fond memories of the southern California trips. Hollywood. He’s attended several Oscar parties, meeting Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Meryl Steep, among other actors.

“I remember several years ago meeting Tom Cruise for the first time at an Oscar Party. There was a long of people that were there to meet him,” Gordon said. Rick Hendrick is friends with Cruise and said if you get a chance, go up and say hi to him, and tell him I said hi.”

Gordon is far from the only Californian who made the trip home last weekend. Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears are from Bakersfield. Jimmie Johnson is from El Cajon in the San Diego area. David Gilliland and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Josh Wise are from Riverside, not far from Auto Club Speedway. Robby Gordon is from Orange, also in Southern California, and A. J. Allmendinger is from Los Gatos.

Gordon was a finalist for this year’s Justice Brothers-Shav Glick Award presented to those who have made significant contributions to California motorsports. The award is named for the late Los Angeles Times motorsports writer. The other finalists are drag race, “TV Tommy” Ivo, Indianapolis roadster builder A.J. Watson, and sports car competitor Tony Adamowicz. Dan Gurney, a five time winner at the old Riverside International Raceway, is among the past winners.

Last Sunday’s Auto Club 400 was the fifth race of the new season and the last race that guaranteed a starting position for drivers that finished in the top 35 positions in last season’s points. Beginning this Sunday at Martinsville, only the top 35 drivers to date in 2012 will have guaranteed starting positions. Heading into the Auto Club 400 last Sunday, Kasey Kahne leads the name drivers who are in danger of having to make the field at upcoming races based on their qualifying speed.

Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet went to California in a surprising 34th in points, only seven points inside the top 35. Kahne, a pre-season favorite to earn a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after joining powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports, has stumbled to open the season. He has yet to crack the top 15 in the first four races.

Also hurting is David Reutiman in the Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet. Reutiman sits in 36th place after finishing 21st at Bristol, four points behind the No. 83 of BK Racing in the 35th and final guaranteed starting spot. Danica Patrick is now out of guaranteed starting spots and will have to qualify for any future races based on her qualifying speed. The next Cup race she is scheduled to run is the May 12 race at Darlington.

The weather forecast for Auto Club Speedway for Sunday was for rain. They got 123 laps of the scheduled 200 lap race in before the sky opened up and NASCAR called it a day. Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch were clearly the cars to beat all afternoon. The ace had been free of caution flags until the rain began. Stewart had the lead on lap 123 when the rains came. Crew Chief Steve Addington had been closely monitoring the weather radar and told Stewart to stay out on the track as this might be the end of the race. A short time later NASCAR threw in the towel. It was Stewart’s second win of the five races so far this season.
For Tony Stewart it was career win number 46 on the Cup circuit, and moved him up three places to fourth in the points chase, 18 points behind the leader Greg Biffle. Biffle was able to hold onto the points lead by virtue of his sixth place finish.

 

 

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