This week’s race at Fontana (Auto Club Speedway) would be the first real look the drivers had at the cars and setups.
Being one of the most abrasive tracks on the tour drivers were focusing on long runs but also getting a handle of the cars and setups as we saw a few teams spinning out of turn 4 during practice.
As the rubber went down the times improved and the fields tightened up which would make for an interesting Qualifying.
Barry Neale grabbed the top spot with a 41.0 followed by Paul Drady and the race started with drivers conserving fuel as they were looking at a 2 stop strategy to go with the allotted tyres but 2 early cautions took the fuel strategy out the window so all they needed to worry about was tyres.
Unfortunately for Ashley Dodgson he accidentally took right sides and would need to run a double stint late in the race on the same set of tyres. As the race got moving, Phil Bissett took the lead from Jeff Luke, Barry Neale and Mark Smith and led till the first of the green flag stops. A yellow came out while several of the lead cars were pitting with the 29 team of Paul Drady panicking and sending him out without making repairs. This would cost him a top 3 finish as they then called him into the pits to make repairs but all the cars had not passed him and he was issues a 42 second penalty to be served under green.
When the green flag flew again on lap 65, Phil spun out of turn 4 collecting Brett Fisher who was looking to build on his good run at Daytona. The resulting damaged had the cars in the pits for repairs for up to 10 minutes.
During the yellow flag, Ashley Dodgson pitted but was caught entering a closed pit and had to also serve a 42 second penalty.
This had Todd Emery who was having a great run and leading a couple of laps restarting 2ndand Mark Smith 3rd behind Barry Neale.
When the green flag waved again, Mark Smith didn’t take long to take the lead and lead for 26 laps before getting caught behind some racing lapped traffic and took some damage to both sides of his car.
Barry regained control of the race and pitted for his final stop after Mark Smith pitted a lap earlier.
Barry Neale’s lead grew over the final 40 laps of the race and he took a convincing win by 21 seconds over Mark Smith and Todd emery in 3rd.
The Race had 5 cautions for 15 laps
11 Lead changes with 5 drivers
Race time was 1 hour and 59 minutes
We move onto Las Vegas next week for another 150 lap race.