Alex Bowman becomes the third driver to qualify for the Cup Series playoffs.
Auto Club Speedway hosts the third NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, with a 400 hundred mile run on a track surface that provides a challenge for the cup series. The track surface has not been repaved since the speedway began hosting Cup races back in 1997. The racing surface along with its multiple racing grooves provides a style of racing that is fun and exciting.
The First Stage
Clint Bowyer started on the pole and moved into the lead with Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman right behind him. In a three-wide battle, Bowman stole the top spot from Bowyer on lap ten. Green flag stops occurred on lap 28 with drivers desperately needing new tires to bring them to the end of the stage. Bowman cycled back into the lead with no other challengers threatening him for the lead and drove ahead to win the first stage of the race.
The Second Stage
Jimmie Johnson moved into the lead after winning the race off pit road during the stage break. However, Ryan Blaney had a better jump on the restart. Blaney and Bowman were able to move into the top two spots and create separation from the field. During a long green-flag run, Clint Bowyer cut a tire, bringing out the only driver induced caution for the day. Everyone made their way down pit road with Ryan Blaney winning the race off. With 24 laps remaining in stage one Blaney took the green flag on the restart. The race moved to three-wide action but quickly cooled off down the backstretch. Blaney out front with a comfortable lead was able to win the second stage of the race.
The Third Stage
Martin Truex Jr. battled from the back of the field to the top spot to begin the final stage of the race. However, it was Alex Bowman returning to the lead shortly into the stage. The pass on Truex was all he needed. After green-flag stops with 41 laps remaining, Bowman cycled back out front with a commanding lead. The checkered flag waved on the final lap and Alex Bowman claimed his victory with a ten-second lead over the rest of the field, winning the Auto Club 400.
Alex Bowman had the car to beat this weekend. He was fastest in both practices and had a third-place qualifying effort. With this kind of speed consistent throughout the weekend, it makes it tough on the rest of the field. Bowman is the third different driver in the third race this season to qualify for the playoffs. This is a big relief for the young driver as he can now move through the rest of the year without feeling the pressure of making the playoffs.
Coming up next for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Fan Shield 500 at ISM Raceway on Sunday, March 8th. Television coverage is on FOX with radio coverage available on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio at 3:30 pm ET.