FONTANA -- The Roush Fenway Racing domination at Auto Club Speedway ended on Sunday at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 500, replaced by that of four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson topped the field for his second straight win at the two-mile speedway dating back to his win last October at the Pepsi 500. It was also Johnson’s 48th career win, which ties him with Herb Thomas for 12th on the all-time list.
In beating Kevin Harvick to the line by 1.523 seconds in a race delayed, but not stopped, for rain, Johnson stopped Roush Fenway from extending its winning streak in the event. Roush Fenway had won the last five spring races at Fontana, including three of the last four with Matt Kenseth and others with Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
This time, neither of the four Roush Fenway Ford drivers ever led a lap, nor did any of the seven other Blue Oval drivers. Kenseth, whose team had a crew chief change earlier in the week, was the highest finisher with a seventh, with Biffle 10th and Edwards 13th.
It was a win of sorts for Edwards, who beat a hasty retreat to the airport following the race to fly home to Missouri where wife Kate is six days overdue with their first baby. Erik Darnell was on standby all week in case Edwards took off.
Kenseth admitted his team had an off day. “It was up and down. We didn’t really run great,” he said. “We actually ran about how I expected to run, which was pretty good. It was a lot better than we did here at California last time, and I feel like we made some improvement on our cars over the winter and got everything a little closer.”
It was his first time with Todd Parrott as his crew chief. Parrott replaced Drew Bickensderfer on Tuesday.
“To get out of Daytona with all the troubles we had and finish eighth, and then to come here in Todd’s first weekend and finish seventh is pretty good,” said Kenseth, now seventh in the early season points race. “We ran a little worse than some of our teammates at times and a little better at times, and it seemed like we ran as good as most of the Fords did.
“I still think we’ve got some work to do to get all of our cars better as a group, but I thought overall that our team did a good job.”
Parrott added, “I was very, very happy. I would have liked to have gotten the car closer for Matt, but we just tweaked on it all day long. It wasn’t too bad. We’ve got some work to do. Those guys up front, obviously, have some really fast race cars, but I think we made some huge gains from where we were over the winter, so I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
Biffle was as high as third before he started to slide back.
“We had a really good car. We got a tough break on that last caution, which figures,” said Biffle. “It seems like we’re always on the wrong side of it, but we had a good car. It was obvious I could run with the 48 [Jimmie Johnson] and the other guys up front.”
Kasey Kahne was running with the leaders until he spun into the infield coming off the turn. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver eventually was scored 34th, although he was running at the end.
“I just didn’t catch it. I got loose and I didn’t catch it, I did a bad job,” said Kahne. “We had a pretty good car. You never really know where we would have finished because everybody was going back and forth in the top 10, so I think we had a great shot at running up front and I just made a mistake.
“Now we’re in a big hole.”