Handing out some deserving awards on Oscars weekend

Updated: March 2, 2009, 12:10 PM ET

AP Photo/Will Lester

Jeff Gordon, behind Matt Kenseth here in the closing laps, thought he had enough to win the race before his car got tight.

Did you see the dress Reese Witherspoon wore as a presenter? What was she thinking? And what did you think of Ben Stiller's bearded impression of Joaquin Phoenix? Pretty cool, huh? Can you believe how many awards "Slumdog Millionaire" took home? Have you even seen the movie? Weren't you a little disappointed that Jennifer Anniston wasn't chosen to introduce Angelina Jolie as a nominee for "Best Actress?" That would have been interesting.

Or what about Matt Kenseth becoming the year's first multiple winner?

Sorry, getting my wires crossed a bit. To be honest, the television at home spent more time on the Oscars than the Sprint Cup race some 60 miles away in Los Angeles. Call it the power of women with a remote control.

But enough of the race was seen to pass out a few awards, so without further ado:

Best driver in a lead role: Easy. Matt Kenseth. And the best part about this win was the race wasn't shortened by rain as the Daytona 500 was a week ago and Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't do something silly to steal the spotlight.

Best supporting driver: This goes to Jeff Gordon. His winless streak in a points race was extended to 42 consecutive, but the four-time Cup champion showed he's awfully close to ending it with a strong second.

"I'm so excited about this race team right now," said Gordon, who led 64 laps. "I just think we're head and shoulders above where we were [last year].

"That last run, we made one little adjustment. I didn't mind if [Kenseth] got out there on us, but when I started running him down, I was like, 'We got him, we got him.' Then my car started getting tighter and tighter and tighter."

Best driver on the top-35 bubble: This has to be Earnhardt. Things haven't gone very well in the first two races. He was vilified for causing a 10-car wreck at Daytona and lost an engine that left him 39th at California. He's 35th in points, which means he must put together solid runs over the next three races to be guaranteed a spot in the sixth race. Imagine how nervous that would make the governing body, to have NASCAR's most popular driver at home watching. It might be the only thing that would get them to reconsider the top-35 rule.

Best jump in standings by a three-time defending champion: Hmmm. Can't be Cale Yarborough. Must be Jimmie Johnson, who moved up 12 spots to 19th with a ninth-place finish. He led 74 laps and appeared to have the best car at one point, but instead of getting better as that team normally does, it settled into mediocrity at the end.

Best weekend without a stop for an In-N-Out burger: Kyle Busch, hands down. He really didn't have time to stop for a grease fix, winning the Truck Series and Nationwide Series races Saturday, the first time a driver has won two races among NASCAR's top three series in one day. He then finished third in the Cup race to jump 20 spots to 18th in the standings.

Most surprising start to the season: Michael Waltrip. Last season, a fellow competitor described him as the "worst driver in NASCAR -- period." He then told reporters during the preseason that if he doesn't win or show marked improvement this might be his last season. He hasn't won yet, but after finishes of seventh and 15th, he's seventh in points, a marked improvement for a driver who hasn't finished better than 29th the past three seasons. The last time he had consecutive finishes inside the top 15 was 2005. The last time he was in the top 10 after two races was 2003.

Waltrip also gets the award for the most obscure stat that nobody has substantiated.

"Considering by Lap 10 I had passed more cars than I did in 2007 or 2008 here at California -- I'm pretty proud of that," he said of his effort.

Most nervous engine department: It was close between Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, but HMS gets the nod. Earnhardt and Mark Martin had engine failures Sunday, equaling the total number the organization had between five drivers in 146 races in 2008.

Sorry there can't be more. Blame it on the handler of the TV remote.

Nationwide Series: Is it already a two-man race?

Attention all non-Cup drivers: You stand no chance. This championship is going to come down between Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.

Edwards was second and Busch fourth in the opener won by Tony Stewart, who will drive a limited schedule. Busch was first and Edwards fourth at California.

They are 1-2 in the standings, with Busch leading by 20 points.

The best non-Cup driver so far has been former Cup driver Brendan Gaughan, who was ninth at California to move to eighth in points. Gaughan also is the top rookie since he'd run only one Nationwide race before this season.

"Fortunately the rules say that I can get an extra set of tires every week by putting a big yellow stripe on my bumper and it gets me a little extra media," he said, referring to the top rookie getting interviewed after every race. "I mean, right now I'd be ninth place getting in my street clothes driving home if I wasn't the Raybestos Rookie.

"I'm glad the rules are the way they are and I got to sit here and give it a shot."

Camping World Truck Series: Busch super; Carmichael super-pumped

The good news in this series is Kyle Busch, second and first in two starts, won't run a full schedule.

The bad news is sponsorship remains a problem for many drivers, including Todd Bodine, who was first at Daytona and second at California without a primary sponsor.

"Hopefully, somebody is out there watching and paying attention," Bodine said. "We thought after the win at Daytona we'd probably get some phone calls, but nothing happened this week. That's a little disappointing."

Keep an eye on Ricky Carmichael, the former motocross champion who is driving a Kevin Harvick-owned truck. He was eighth at California after crashing at Daytona.

"The best thing is that I finished the race, no doubt," Carmichael said. "I kept my nose clean out there and learned so much. I'm super-pumped."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.



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Matt Kenseth holds off Jeff Gordon to win his second straight Sprint Cup race. Kyle Busch comes up barely short in his bid for a first-ever "three-fer" weekend.

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Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup Series

Matt Kenseth


  • Matt Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California. He became just the fourth driver to win the Daytona 500 and then the next race of the season. He joined Richard Petty (1973), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Jeff Gordon (1997). Kenseth is the fifth driver to win the first two races of the season. (Marvin Panch (1957), Bob Welborn (1959), David Pearson (1976), Jeff Gordon (1997).
  • Kenseth posted his 18th career series victory in 330 races. Kenseth's most recent win came at Homestead in 2007, 38 races ago. He posted his eighth straight top-10 finish at California.
  • This was Kenseth's third victory at Auto Club Speedway. He also won this race in 2006 and '07. Kenseth ties Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson for the most wins at Auto Club Speedway.
  • Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer has won the first two races of his Cup career. Blickensderfer has won the past four races that he was a crew chief. (He was the crew chief for Carl Edwards in the Nationwide Series for his wins at Phoenix and Homestead to end last year.)
  • Race-winner Kenseth led the most laps in the race; he led three times for 84 laps, including the final 38 laps. This is the third time Kenseth has scored back-to-back victories (Michigan/Bristol '06 and Rockingham/Las Vegas '04). He started 24th. His other two victories in California came from starting 31st and 25th.
  • This was the seventh victory for Roush Fenway Racing at California, tying Hendrick Motorsports for the most wins by an team here. Roush Fenway has won the past five February races at Auto Club Speedway.
  • This marks Roush Fenway's 15th NASCAR win at Auto Club Speedway. (Cup: 7, Nationwide: 6, Trucks: 2)
  • A team has won the rst two races of the season eight times in the series -- most recently by Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2001 -- but only three times in the past 32 seasons.
  • The most races a team has won to start the season is three, done twice: Petty Enterprises (1962) and Peter Depaolo Racing (1957).
  • Jeff Gordon finished second for the fourth time to Kenseth. It was also his third second-place finish since he last won; at Lowe's in October, 2007, 43 races ago.
  • Matt Kenseth leads the series points standings by 81 points over second-place Jeff Gordon.
  • Kyle Busch finished third, Busch won both the Nationwide and Truck Series races at California. Busch currently leads both the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings. Busch did not lead the race Sunday.
  • Kevin Harvick (38th) ended an 81-race streak of running at the finish that began at Kansas in October 2006. Harvick's last DNF came at Dover on Sept. 24, 2006, where he finished 32nd due to engine failure. His DNF on Sunday was also an engine failure. Clint Bowyer, with 75 consecutive RAF, now has the longest current streak.
  • No. 20 Joey Logano (26th) was the highest-finishing rookie contender among the two rookies in the race. Scott Speed finished 41st.
  • The top 10 consisted of three Fords, three Chevrolets, three Toyotas and one Dodge.
  • Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart joined Matt Kenseth with top-10 finishes in the first two races of the season.

Nationwide Series

Kyle Busch


  • Kyle Busch won the Stater Bros. 300 at Auto Club Speedway. He scored his 22nd series victory in his 140th start. Busch's 22 career wins tie him with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tommy Ellis, and Sam Ard for seventh all-time in the series.
  • Busch scored his second series victory at the speedway in his ninth start there; his previous win there was in August 2008.
  • Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to win two NASCAR National Touring Series races in the same day; he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race as well.
  • Busch led a combined 238 of the 250 laps run between the two races. Busch was not passed on the race track in either race.
  • Busch scored his fifth series victory with crew chief Jason Ratcliff. It was Ratcliff's first race back after being suspended.
  • Busch has finished in the top 10 in 15 of his past 16 series races; he has scored seven victories during the 16-race span.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing has led 423 of the 450 series laps raced at Auto Club Speedway during the past three races there.
  • Toyota posted its 23rd series victory and its third, all consecutive, at Auto Club Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing scored its 29th series victory and its third, all consecutive, at the speedway.
  • This was the ninth consecutive race won from a top-five starting position at California.
  • Kevin Harvick finished second. It was his third second-place finish in his 40th race driving for KHI.
  • Carl Edwards, fourth, scored his 11th consecutive top-five finish, tying him with Sam Ard and Jack Ingram for second all-time. The most consecutive top-5s is 15 by Sam Ard.
  • Ken Butler scored a 20th-place finish in his series debut.
  • No. 62 Brendan Gaughan (ninth) was the highest-finishing rookie contender among the seven rookies in the race. It was Gaughan's best career series finish.
  • The top 10 consisted of four Toyotas, four Chevrolets and two Fords. The best Dodge finish was 14th, by Justin Allgaier .

Camping World Truck Series

Kyle Busch


  • Kyle Busch won the San Bernardino 200 at Auto Club Speedway. He scored his second win in his second series start at California. Busch has scored 10 career series victories in 56 starts (17.8 percent). Busch dominated the race, leading three times for 95 laps, including the final seven laps. Busch led all but two green-flag laps.
  • All 10 of Busch's series victories have come with Billy Ballew Motorsports.
  • His previous series victory came at Bristol last August.
  • Busch gave Billy Ballew Motorsports its 11th series win. (10 by Busch and one by Shane Hmiel.)
  • Doug George, Busch's crew chief, scored his first career win.
  • Busch has finished in the top 10 in his past 14 series starts, dating back to Texas in June.
  • Todd Bodine, who finished second after winning last week, has finished in the top five in the past eight series races.
  • Busch joins Ted Musgrave (three wins) and Jack Sprague (two) as the only multiple race winners at California.
  • This marked the third straight victory for Toyota at the speedway: Mike Skinner (2007) and Kyle Busch (2008 and '09).
  • This is just the third time in 13 series races at California that the pole winner won the race: Mike Bliss (1997), Kurt Busch (2000) and Kyle Busch (2009).
  • Busch scored three series wins in 2008.
  • 2009 has started the same for Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch as 2008. In both years Busch finished runner-up to Bodine at Daytona and Bodine was runner-up to Busch again at California.
  • Gabi Dicarlo scored a 19th-place finish in her series debut. She is the 12th female driver to compete in the series.
  • Ricky Carmichael (eighth) was the highest-finishing rookie contender among the six rookies in the race.
  • The top 10 consisted of six Toyotas and four Chevrolets. The best Ford was 13th, by James Buescher and the best Dodge finish was 21st, by Brett Thompson.

-- Racing Resources