FONTANA, Calif. – Alex Bowman (No. 88 Cincinnati Chevrolet) captured the 24th Annual Auto Club 400 in dominating fashion, winning for the first time on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway track and for a second time in NASCAR’s top division.
Tucson’s Bowman got off to a fast start taking Stage 1 and holding off Stage 2 winner Ryan Blaney (No. 12 BODYARMOR Ford) and the Busch brothers, Kyle (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota) and older brother Kurt (No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet), who finished second the third, respectively.
“How about that California?” Bowman said from victory lane. “I grew up quarter-midget racing near here in Pomona. So I have a lot of friends here today.”
He added he may soon have a new piece of permanent ink. “I promised my buddy we would get 88 tattoos if I won so I guess I’m going to be getting a tattoo.”
After winning his first Cup race in 2019 at the Camping World 400 (Chicagoland), Bowman and his team struggled. “The first one was a real enjoyable experience then we sucked for six months,” he said. “We started this year so strong. Even in practice I was telling the guys this is the fastest we’ve run in two years.”
At last year’s Auto Club Speedway 400, Kyle Busch made NASCAR history as he tied motor racing icon Richard Petty at the top of the all-time NASCAR national series wins list with victory No. 200
“We have a lot of work to do,” Busch said. “The guys did a great job here and tried to work on everything we could. Thankfully we got a second-place finish out here and got some points.”
Ryan Blaney won Stage 2 but Blaney’s No. 12 was forced to pit road with a tire issue with three laps left and he finished 19th, one lap off the pace.
“I didn’t see any frustration,” said Blaney, who is the overall point standings leader by 11 points over Joey Logano. “Race happens. I gave up a good finish and lost my lead. I got swallowed up on a re-start and had to drive our way back up there.”
El Cajon native Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Ally Chevrolet), appearing in his final Fontana race, started in 2nd position and placed seventh. The home-state favorite led three times for 10 laps in his final Auto Club start of his last full-time Cup Series season. His wife, Chandra, and daughters, Genevieve and Lydia, were in the flag stand for the initial green flag as ceremonial starters. Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet also led a five-wide salute during pace laps.
Rookie Tyler Reddick (No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet), a two-time Xfinity champion, finished 11th.