|Race 5 of 36 in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series|
Track map of the speedway at Auto Club Speedway AKA California Speedway
|Date||March 25, 2012|
|Official name||Auto Club 400|
|Location||Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California|
Permanent racing facility|
2 mi (3.2 km)
|Distance||129 laps, 258 mi (415.2 km)|
|Scheduled Distance||200 laps, 400 mi (643.7 km)|
|Weather||A few showers; wind out of the SSW at 9 mph.|
|Average speed||160.166 miles per hour (257.762 km/h)|
|Driver||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|No. 14||Tony Stewart||Stewart Haas Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Network||Fox Broadcasting Company|
|Announcers||Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds|
The 2012 Auto Club 400 was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car race held on March 25 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Shortened to 129 laps because of rain showers, it was the fifth race of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season. The race was won by Tony Stewart for the Stewart-Haas Racing team. Kyle Busch finished second, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who started fourteenth, clinched third.
Auto Club Speedway is one of six superspeedways to hold NASCAR races. The standard track at Auto Club Speedway is a four-turn superspeedway that is 2 miles (3.2 km) long. The track's turns are banked at fourteen degrees, while the front stretch, the location of the finish line, is banked at eleven degrees. The back stretch has 3 degrees of banking. The racetrack has seats for 92,100 spectators.
Before the race, Greg Biffle was leading the Drivers' Championship with 157 points, nine points ahead of Kevin Harvick in second and twelve ahead of Matt Kenseth. Martin Truex, Jr. followed fourth with 139 points, two ahead of Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in fifth and sixth. Tony Stewart, with 130, was in the seventh position ahead of Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano. Paul Menard rounded out the first ten positions with 123 points. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Ford was first with 25 points, one ahead of Chevrolet and four ahead of Toyota. Dodge was in the fourth positions with 18 points. Kevin Harvick was the race's defending winner from 2011.
Practice and qualifying
Three practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—one on Friday and two on Saturday. The first session lasted 90 minutes. The Saturday morning session lasted 50 minutes, and the final practice session lasted 60 minutes. During the first practice session, Bowyer was quickest with a time of 38.896, ahead of Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne in second and third. Brad Keselowski followed in the fourth position, ahead of Hamlin in fifth.
During qualifying, forty-six cars were entered, but only forty-three were able to race because of NASCAR's qualifying procedure. Hamlin clinched is tenth career pole position, with a time of 38.626. After his qualifying run, Hamlin commented, "We're four weeks in, and we've had two good weeks and two bad weeks. There's light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like this weekend we've got a little bit more speed than we had in Vegas. We're getting better, and we've got some good stuff coming with our team. We're obviously heading in the right direction." He was joined on the front row of the grid by Kyle Busch. Martin qualified third, Biffle took fourth, and Kahne started fifth. The three drivers that did not qualify were Robby Gordon, Joe Nemechek and Timmy Hill.
Hamlin was quickest in the second practice session with a time of 38.706 seconds. Kenseth and Ryan Newman followed in second and third, ahead of Tony Stewart in the fourth position. Kevin Harvick was fifth, less than five-hundredths of a second quicker than Kyle Busch. Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Kahne rounded out the first ten positions. During the third and final practice session, Hamlin, with a fastest time of 39.553, remained quickest. Jeff Gordon and Bowyer followed in second and third with times of 39.700 and 39.732 seconds. Jamie McMurray was fourth fastest, ahead of Kyle Busch and Johnson. Harvick, Kenseth, Martin Truex, Jr., and Stewart completed the first ten positions during the session.
The race, the fifth in the season, began at 3:12 p.m. EDT and was televised live in the United States on Fox. The conditions on the grid were dry before the race while cloudy skies were expected. Jeff Hamilton, of Motor Racing Outreach, began pre-race ceremonies, by giving the invocation. Next, Night Ranger performed the national anthem, and the trio of Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sass (from the film The Three Stooges) gave the command for drivers to start their engines.
Pole position winner, Hamlin maintained the lead throughout the first lap, but was overtaken by Kyle Busch on the following lap. As the weather became worse for racing conditions, many teams adjusted their cars during the first set of green flag pit stops. On the 85th lap, Stewart claimed the lead from Kyle Busch. Shortly after, Stewart moved back into the lead ahead of Hamlin and Kyle Busch after pitting.
The race ran 250 miles without incident, with the first caution on Lap 125 for rain. During pit stops, Stewart refused to pit, while Hamlin in the second position and a few others did. Also during the caution, Johnson, who had been in the top-ten for most of the race, began having problems with a potential oil leak, causing the smoke to run out of under the car. Afterward, the caution flag turned to a red flag, stalling the race because of the rain shower. Afterward, NASCAR decided the end the race, making Stewart the winner. Kyle Busch finished second, ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Harvick and Edwards. Biffle, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr., Kurt Busch, and Johnson rounded out the first ten positions.
It was the first time a NASCAR race in the premiership had gone without an incident-related safety car since the October 2002 Talladega race.
|1||9||14||Tony Stewart||Stewart-Haas Racing||Chevrolet||129||47|
|2||2||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||129||44|
|3||14||88||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||129||41|
|4||7||29||Kevin Harvick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||129||40|
|5||12||99||Carl Edwards||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||129||39|
|6||4||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||129||38|
|7||6||39||Ryan Newman||Stewart-Haas Racing||Chevrolet||129||37|
|8||13||56||Martin Truex, Jr.||Michael Waltrip Racing||Toyota||129||36|
|9||23||51||Kurt Busch||Phoenix Racing||Chevrolet||129||35|
|10||10||48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||129||35|
|11||1||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||129||34|
|12||3||55||Mark Martin||Michael Waltrip Racing||Toyota||129||32|
|13||11||15||Clint Bowyer||Michael Waltrip Racing||Toyota||129||31|
|14||5||5||Kasey Kahne||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||129||30|
|15||25||22||A. J. Allmendinger||Penske Racing||Dodge||129||29|
|16||15||17||Matt Kenseth||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford||129||28|
|17||24||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Earnhardt-Genassi Racing||Chevrolet||128||27|
|18||17||2||Brad Keselowski||Penske Racing||Dodge||128||26|
|19||27||27||Paul Menard||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||128||25|
|20||22||78||Regan Smith||Furniture Row Racing||Chevrolet||128||24|
|21||29||9||Marcos Ambrose||Richard Petty Motorsports||Ford||128||23|
|22||19||31||Jeff Burton||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||128||22|
|23||33||13||Casey Mears||Germain Racing||Ford||128||21|
|24||8||20||Joey Logano||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||128||19|
|25||28||43||Aric Almirola||Richard Petty Motorsports||Ford||128||19|
|26||21||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||128||19|
|27||18||10||David Reutimann||Tommy Baldwin Racing||Chevrolet||127||17|
|28||26||47||Bobby Labonte||JTG Daugherty Racing||Toyota||127||16|
|29||40||93||Travis Kvapil||BK Racing||Toyota||127||15|
|30||41||38||David Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||127||14|
|31||38||34||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||127||13|
|32||16||1||Jamie McMurray||Earnhardt-Genassi Racing||Chevrolet||126||12|
|33||34||36||Dave Blaney||Tommy Baldwin Racing||Chevrolet||126||11|
|34||42||32||Ken Schrader||FAS Lane Racing||Ford||125||10|
|35||36||49||J. J. Yeley||Robinson-Blakeney Racing||Chevrolet||125||9|
|36||31||83||Landon Cassill||BK Racing||Toyota||124||8|
|37||30||26||Josh Wise||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||51||7|
|38||32||98||Michael McDowell||Phil Parsons Racing||Ford||40||6|
|39||20||30||David Stremme||Inception Motorsports||Chevrolet||36||5|
|40||39||19||Mike Bliss||Humphrey Smith Motorsports||Toyota||18||–|
|41||35||23||Scott Riggs||R3 Motorsports||Chevrolet||17||3|
|42||43||74||Reed Sorenson||Turn One Racing||Chevrolet||6||–|
|43||37||33||Brendan Gaughan||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||1||1|
Standings after the race
- "Sprint Cup Series Schedule". ESPN. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- Brown, Brian (March 20, 2012). "The Auto Club 400". Rotoworld.com. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
- "NASCAR Race Tracks". NASCAR. Archived from the original on February 7, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "NASCAR Tracks—The Auto Club Speedway". Auto Club Speedway. Archived from the original on 2010-09-24. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "Pre-race Drivers' Championship Standings". NASCAR. Archived from the original on September 8, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "Jayski's® NASCAR Silly Season Site – 2012 Manufacturers Championship Standings". Jayski.com. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "2011 Auto Club 400". Racing-Reference.info. March 27, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "NASCAR Race Information: Auto Club 400". Jayski.com. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "Practice 1 Timing and Scoring". NASCAR. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "Qualifying Order". NASCAR. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "2012 Auto Club 400 Qualifying Statistics". Motor Racing Network. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- "Hamlin leads Gibbs' front row sweep for California". Sports Network. News Observer. March 23, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
- "2012 Auto Club 400 Starting Grid". Motor Racing Network. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- "Practice 2 Timing and Scoring". NASCAR. March 24, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "Practice Three Timing and Scoring". NASCAR. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- "Race Summary". NASCAR. Retrieved March 25, 2012.
- "Tony Stewart wins 2nd race of season". Associated Press. ESPN. March 26, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
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