Hendrick Garage: California Dreaming

Dale Earnhardt Jr. walks the red carpet during driver intros.
Credit: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images for NASCAR
Beautiful sunny California...Fontana wasn’t sunny today; due to rain the race was called just past the halfway point. Would the rain cost the Hendrick drivers, or did it pay off for them?

 Kasey Kahne No. 5 

After having no luck in the 2012 season to date, Kasey Kahne hoped to run strong at Fontana. Starting fifth just might be the ticket he needed to change that all.

A caution-free race caused issues for Kahne; his car was  loose throughout the afternoon and the No. 5 crew just couldn’t get a handle on the car. On Lap 124 caution came out for rain and the race was called, Kahne finished the day 15th, and gained four positions in the points to move up to 28th.

Jeff Gordon No. 24 

After bad luck and a run-in with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Bristol, Jeff Gordon needed a good day at Fontana.

Starting 23rd wouldn't help matters much, but Gordon did have a fast car. With the many green flag pit stops that occurred during the race, Gordon moved up to 8tth and even led a lap.

Gordon’s pit crew experienced problems, though. Equipment was taken out of the No. 24 pit box. While filling up the tank, the gas can stuck as Gordon was driving away. The gas-can man kept hold of the can and finally pulled it off,  but the driver had to return to pit road to serve a pass-through penalty and came out one lap down. Gordon was overcoming that pit road viloation when the caution came out on Lap 124 and he hit pit road for, this time a tire viloation would cost him more positions. Gordon would end up ending the day 26th as well as now being 25th in the point standings.

Jimmie Johnson No. 48 

Finally the appeals process is over with Johnson can rest easy now; his crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec aren’t going anywhere. In addition, the 25 points were also added back for Johnson.

Starting 10th, the No. 48 was quickly moving up to the front, within the first 30 laps Johnson was fifth.

On Lap 124 the first and only caution of the day came out. Johnson pitted while many other drivers didn't, Johnson came out 10th but something was amiss with the No. 48. Johnson’s car started to smoke, causing him to slow down and drop to the apron, but he was able to maintain his position during the caution laps and ended his day in 10th.  The red flag was a lucky break for the team, If the race continued, the team would have been forced to the garage for repairs. Johnson now sits 8th in the points standings.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened,” Johnson said about his car smoking. “Either a piece of debris hit the oil line, just hooked the line and snagged it. We clipped an artery basically. Bottom line, it’s losing blood fast.”

“Unfortunately we have an oil leak," Chad Knaus said after the race. "We’re looking into it right now to see what happened there on that last pit stop."

Dale Earnhardt Jr No. 88

After a speeding penalty late in the race last week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. hoped to get a better finish Sunday.

Starting 14th, the No. 88 was quickly on the move, gaining to 10th within the first 30 laps. Green flags stops helped to improve Earnhardt Jr’s position and kept him running up front. When the caution came out on Lap 124 for rain the team stayed out, bumping him up to third. Earnhardt Jr. would finish the day in third and is also now third in points.

"I was happy,” Earnhardt Jr. said about his day. “The car was fast. We had a great car in practice. Right at the end of practice, I told the guys this car was really good, and the (No. 88) Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet was great from the drop of the green (flag). We had great pit strategy all day.”
Hendrick Garage: California Dreaming Hendrick Garage: California Dreaming Reviewed by Lacy Page on Monday, March 26, 2012 Rating: 5