FONTANA, Calif. — When dark clouds ominously obscured majestic Mount Baldy north of Auto Club Speedway early in Sunday’s race, NASCAR’s drivers all realized they were probably in for a short day on a long track.
Nobody did a better job racing until the raindrops fell than Tony Stewart.
Stewart got his second NASCAR victory of the season when rain shortened the race at Auto Club Speedway by 71 laps, extending the defending Sprint Cup champion’s unusually strong start.
Kyle Busch finished second, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. added to his good start to the season in third.
“You hate to have it end with rain like that,” Stewart said. “But we’ve lost some that way, and we didn’t back into the lead.”
Stewart has won seven of the past 15 races, including Las Vegas in February, in a remarkable stretch of dominance for a driver who rarely starts fast.
Although Stewart sees nothing special about his approach to the new season, he’s clearly focused. Stewart and new crew chief Steve Addington didn’t mention the rain to each other until moments before it hit one end of the 2-mile oval, but they had already done the work necessary to win.
“It’s been nice to get off to a good start this year the way we have,” said Stewart, who has been even more impressive this year despite firing crew chief Darian Grubb last December. “The history shows the last 13 years, we haven’t had the strongest start the first third of the year, but I’m really excited about the start we’ve got going. Daytona was probably our weakest race, and I know I made decisions trying to make things happen and it didn’t work out. I’m really proud of what Steve and all our guys have done.”
Defending race winner Kevin Harvick was fourth, and Carl Edwards was fifth. Greg Biffle finished sixth and kept a seven-point lead on Harvick atop the points standings.