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Strong Run, Correct Pit Call Lands Junior 3rd in Fontana

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 3/25/2012

Race: Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.)
Track Specs: 2-mile oval / 200 Laps (rain-shortened to 129 laps)
Weather: Cloudy and overcast; Rainy
Race Winner: Tony Stewart
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 3rd

In a race shortened by rain, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway. It is Earnhardt Jr.’s second top-five and third top-10 in five races this year. The finish moves him from sixth to third in the point standings, now just 17 points behind leader Greg Biffle and 10 points behind second-ranked Kevin Harvick.

Tony Stewart claimed his second victory of the year, leading 42 laps in the winning effort. His laps-led total was bested only by Kyle Busch, who led 80 and finished second. Harvick and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five.

Starting 14th, Earnhardt Jr. promptly moved into the top-10 by lap 15 and used green-flag pit stops on laps 33, 68 and 103 to clip off more spots. The race didn’t see its first caution flag until lap 123 for rain. Earnhardt Jr. had the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet up to fifth, and he inherited two more spots when Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson pitted under the yellow flag. Intensifying rain showers forced the red flag to come out at lap 129, and the race was never restarted.

This marks the best finish for Earnhardt Jr. at Auto Club Speedway since placing second on Sept. 3, 2006. Traditionally not one of his better tracks, this marks his fourth top-five at ACS in 20 starts.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. / Driver No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard Chevrolet
“We’ll never know what would’ve happened had the race been resumed, but I was very happy with my car. Tony had an awesome car, and the 48 had been pulling away from me steadily throughout the day. The track was going to tighten up, and we were sort of preparing for that. That’s an area where we’ve had some problems with this year, and we were getting ready to start freeing our car up pretty good for those last few runs there. I was happy, the car was fast. We had a great car at the end of practice yesterday. I told the guys this car is really good. The Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard Chevrolet was good from the drop of the green, and we moved forward all day long. We had great pit strategy. We stopped a little earlier than most people, and we gained some track position that way, too.”

Fontana Race Report
Start 14th
Finish 3rd
Laps Completed (Led) 129 of 129 (0)
Standings (from leader) 3rd (-17)
Pitstops Laps 33, 68 and 103 (all green-flag)
Condition Running


After Ford EcoBoost 400
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 +3 Kevin Harvick 5043 0
2 +1 Ryan Newman 5042 -1
3 -2 Denny Hamlin 5037 -6
4 -2 Joey Logano 5028 -15
5 -- Brad Keselowski 2361 -2682
6 -- Jeff Gordon 2348 -2695
7 -- Matt Kenseth 2334 -2709
8 +2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2301 -2742
9 -- Carl Edwards 2288 -2755
10 -2 Kyle Busch 2285 -2758
11 +2 Jimmie Johnson 2274 -2769
12 +2 Kurt Busch 2263 -2780
Full Standings