Johnson Dominates In Front Of Smaller Fontana

There was simply no doubt who was the best car Sunday night at Fontana.  Jimmie Johnson was in a class by himself, winning the Pepsi 500.  In the process, the defending champ became one of the latest to clinch a spot in The Chase, which starts after this coming weekend.  But, there are other issues at Fontana that NASCAR can't turn away from for much longer.

While Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have been the top drivers this season, Jimmie Johnson sent a message Sunday night:  That he's still the champion and will be a force to reckon with in The Chase.  Johnson flat out dominated the Pepsi 500 Sunday night at the California Speedway.  The Southern California native led 228 of the 250 laps.  Besides Johnson, only runner-up Greg Biffle led at least ten laps (he led 12). 

The race had eight cautions for 34 laps.  There were really no major incidents in the race.  Tire problems caused incidents for Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, and Joe Nemechek along with a spin by Robby Gordon.  The rest were for debris cautions, including on lap 21 when the caution lights in turn one came unhinged and fell on the track.

The rest of the top ten in order behind Johnson and Biffle was Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, David Reuitmann, and Clint Bowyer.  Johnson along with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who finished 11th) and Jeff Burton (17th) qualified for The Chase.  In position for The Chase are Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon.  Denny Hamlin is 11th in the points with Bowyer holding the last spot.  Fighting for a spot for the Chase are David Ragan and Kasey Kahne.  Ragan is 17 points behind Bowyer while Kahne sits 47 back.

The good news is that this race at Fontana didn't have the problems that the February event did.  The bad news is that the interest in racing at the track seems to be dwindling.  2008 marked the 12th season NASCAR has raced at Fontana.  While racing at many other tracks attracts the fans, the lack of it seems to be chasing them away from California.  It was estimated that Sunday's race was 20,000 fans shy of a sellout.  That is not a good number.  Part of the reason is that both races this year didn't have the action NASCAR fans look for.  It's not just the new car either.  The racing there has not been that great for a while now.  The empty seats should be a sign of that.  NASCAR recently announced that this race will be a part of The Chase next year.  One has to wonder how wise a decision that was.

NASCAR has already tried twice at racing in the Los Angeles area.  The sport raced at tracks in Ontario and Riverside.  Lack of interest ended racing at those places.  Could Fontana be a "three strikes, you're out" type of situation for the sport in Southern California?  If things don't turn around soon, that could be the case.

The Nationwide Series will run Friday night at Richmond with the Truck Series racing Saturday afternoon at Gateway International Raceway.  Saturday night marks the last race before The Chase begins.  The Chevy Rock & Roll 400 will race at Richmond.  For the rest of the season, all Sprint Cup races will be shown on ABC.

By:  CrimsonCowboy

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