Auto Club Speedway is not a superspeedway.
In fact, after the recent sale of most of its property, it won’t be a large speedway at all.
Nevertheless, in the last NASCAR Cup Series event on the 2.0-mile configuration of the track built in 1997, Auto Club had its own version of a “Big One”—a multicar wreck that damaged roughly a quarter of the field—in Sunday’s Pala Casino 400.
Joey Logano led the field to a restart on Lap 86. Taking advantage of the full length of the restart zone, Logano stayed off the gas as eager drivers behind him tried to anticipate his start.
What resulted was an accordion effect that saw cars checking up, spinning and running into each other. Tyler Reddick, Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola and polesitter Christopher Bell sustained damage so serious that it knocked them out of the race.
“I saw it stacked up pretty bad,” Reddick said. “I saw the car behind me kind of laid off to get a really big run, so I kind of elected to make the decision to go to the bottom and get around it. Unfortunately, I think Ryan (Blaney) had the same idea.
“We just got collected and went through the grass and the right front of The Beast Unleashed Toyota Camry TRD was broke. Unfortunate end to my Cup racing career at this two-mile track…
Ross Chastain disappointed despite strong run
For the first two-thirds of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway, Ross Chastain’s No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet was the clear class of the field.
Chastain led a race-high 91 laps to winner Kyle Busch’s 27 and swept the first two stages of the event. When he crossed the finish line to beat Busch in the second stage, Chastain had a lead of 6.673 seconds.
But Busch’s car improved, and Chastain had to settle for a third-place finish behind the race winner and runner-up Chase Elliott. Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suárez ran fourth as Chevrolet drivers claimed the top four positions.
“He got faster—I don’t know,” Chastain said. “Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right. We kept up with it, and it would just build pretty loose late in the runs. At times, it was enough, and at times, they (Busch) got way better. But I thought our No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet was the steady force.
“To start off the way that we have this year is a total 180 from last year when it was not like this. So, as much as it stings, and as much as it does hurt, hats off to Chevrolet for the top four there and for Trackhouse (on our finishes) at our first crack at big tracks here. That is all we can ask for.”
Kevin Harvick needed stronger restarts to contend for the win
In his 791st start in his final NASCAR Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick showed excellent long-run speed in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
Unfortunately, lack of strength on restarts prevented him from contending for the win in Sunday’s Pala Casino 400. Harvick had to settle for a fifth-place finish.
“Our GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang was really good on the long runs,” Harvick said. “I just really struggled on the restarts with the front end. In the end, we had a chance, but I couldn’t put us in the right position on the restarts to guard our track position like we needed to.
“It was still a great day. The guys did a great job on pit road all day and kept us up in the front.”