FONTANA, Calif. — Alex Bowman took the checkered flag in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 after leading 110 laps and also winning the first stage. This was his second time winning a Cup series race in 156 starts.
“There’s a lot of pressure to win races when you drive for Hendrick Motorsports,” Bowman said. “I have the best team in the sport. I put a lot of pressure on myself. We knew we had a shot at it. It’s a culmination of equal grip level from top to bottom and being able to race wide open. Our car was really good and I went with my gut to burn the tires off of it. Apparently, my tire was gonna explode and he didn’t tell me. It was cool.”
Bowman took the lead on lap 167 and never looked back. The 26-year-old driver grew up in Tucson, Ariz. and used to race cars as a kid in Pomona. This time, he won at the two-mile super speedway in California’s Inland Empire.
“I’d get off school Thursday, me and my dad would load up the truck and trailer and we would drive to Pomona,” he explained. “In Arizona, there is only one speed limit…trucks and cars were all 75. Then, we would get to California and they would have this 55 mph speed limit. And we got pulled over a lot. Don’t tell CHP about the rental car return lot.”
It was mainly a clean race. Clint bowyer hit the turn two wall on on lap 93. The only other cautions were at the end of the first and second stages.
Hometown favorite Jimmie Johnson finished in 7th place after starting second. It was his final race at the Auto Club Speedway, about two hours north of his hometown of El Cajon, Calif. His family–including his wife Chandra and daughters, Genevieve and Lydia–were honorary starters and waved the green flag to get the race underway.
Las Vegas natives Kyle Busch and his brother Kurt Busch finished in second and third, respectively. They received cheers and boos during the pre-race ceremony. Kyle was last year’s winner at the Auto Club 400 in southern California.
Ryan Blaney won the second stage of the race. He started in 16th place and ended up finishing in 19th place.
The 2020 Auto Club 400 lasted two hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds. The race started under cloudy skies with light drizzle during the pre race ceremony. Then, it cleared up towards the half and the sun poked through at times. Temperatures were chilly, sitting in the 50s and 60s most of the day.
The average speed during the race was 152.753 mph but I saw speeds just under 200 mph at times. There were 16 lead changes among 8 different drivers. Bowman led the most laps with 110 followed by Ryan blaney with 54 and meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson and Clint bowyer both led 10 laps.
Before the race got underway, the drivers lined up their cars in a five-wide salute to the fans. It’s a Southern California tradition that started a few years ago and continued on Sunday.
Rising country music star Chase Bryant headlined the entertainment in the O’Reilly Auto Parts fan zone. Other performers included country music duo Pryor & Lee, country artist Todd Stanford, Rock group Pancho & The Wizards, Christian duo Love & The Outcome, band American Mile, and a Selena tribute artist.
Racing fans I spoke to said that they had lots of fun at the Auto Club 400.
“I’m a Hendrick fan so it was nice to see someone from the Hendrick camp win it,” said racing fan Gary Kellam from San Bernardino, Calif. “I think most of us were rooting for Jimmie Johnson. Bowman’s a kid, he’s only won one race prior to today. It’s good to see. He had the best car. The only thing that can stop him is tires and a tank of gas but that didn’t slow him down.”
“I thought it was a great race,” said fan Troy MacDonald from Riverside, Calif. “I’m a good fan of Chase Elliott but I thought that Alex Bowman did a great job. The track was great. I know the weather was a little off. They had it dried quickly and we got through it. The track was well built.”
“I can’t take away anything from the No. 88, they had a top two car the whole time and finally when the race ended, he finished first, said racing fan Greg Camacho from Los Angeles. “He adjusted right and he won the race fair and square. There’s nothing where there’s rain, there’s no tire issue, nothing. He was the most dominant car throughout the race. If you’re a fan of the race, it was action from first to last.”
Up next: The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Phoenix Raceway for the FanShield 500 on Sunday. You can catch it live on FOX beginning at 12:30 p.m. PT and 3:30 p.m. ET.