Kenseth makes it two in a row


All times Eastern

10:04 p.m.

Could Matt Kenseth have scripted a better start to the 2009 Sprint Cup season?

Kenseth holds off Jeff Gordon down the stretch to win the Auto Club 500 -- one week after the Roush Fenway Racing driver won his first Daytona 500.

Kyle Busch finishes third, falling a little short of earning the weekend triple.

9:45 p.m.

Kevin Harvick says it was a blown engine that caused him to hit the wall, not a cut tire.

Matt Kenseth leads the restart with 35 laps left. Jeff Gordon is second and Kyle Busch has moved up to third.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. on what happened to his motor: "We broke something in the valve train, probably a spring first. That's the first time we've really had any engine trouble here. I'm sure they will figure out what it was and it'll never happen again."

9:39 p.m.

Jeff Gordon passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. to put his teammate a lap down with 48 laps remaining.

Kevin Harvick slams into the wall with 42 laps to go, bringing out the first caution that isn't weather-related. He blew a right-side tire, which shoots the No. 29 Chevy up into the barrier, but Harvick is OK.

The leaders pit now for what will be the last time if there isn't another caution.

Matt Kenseth's crew again gets him off pit road first. The No. 17 guys have been outstanding all night.

Greg Biffle runs over the air hose and has to back up. The slow stop drops him back to 12th.

Earnhardt heads to the garage. His engine gives out. That's two Hendrick cars that didn't make it to the end.

9:23 p.m.

Mark Martin blows up with 71 laps to go. He's done.

Jeff Gordon passes Jimmie Johnson for second with 67 laps remaining. He's closing in on Matt Kenseth. Gordon is side-by-side with Kenseth with 55 laps left.

Gordon gets to the front with 53 to go. Greg Biffle passes Kenseth for second.

9:10 p.m.

The No. 88 changes the spark plug wires, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. says it didn't help. Earnhardt pits two more times.

Tony Stewart decides to pit under yellow. The restart comes with 73 laps to go. Matt Kenseth leads, Jimmie Johnson is second and Jeff Gordon third. Kyle Busch is fifth, still with a shot at the triple.

Gordon tells his crew he thinks Kenseth is speeding off pit road and getting away with it. Steve Letarte, Gordon's crew chief, tells him not to worry about it because they will beat him on the track.

8:48 p.m.

Jimmie Johnson passes Jeff Gordon for second with 94 laps to go. Whatever the 48 crew did to the car to loosen it up, it's working.

Spotters are telling the drivers that rain may be coming again.

8:41 p.m.

Matt Kenseth has a perfect pit stop and moves to the front of the pack under caution. He could be playing the rain card again, hoping lightning strikes twice.

The restart comes with 99 laps to go. Greg Biffle is second and Jeff Gordon is third, but Gordon passed Biffle with a great jump on the restart.

8:18 p.m.

Caution No. 3 comes on Lap 142 with raindrops falling in Turn 3. The only cautions all night have come because of rain.

Jimmie Johnson complains to crew chief Chad Knaus that his car is too tight and he can't get to the bottom of the track. Johnson is running third.

8:18 p.m.

David Ragan scrapes the wall on Lap 111. He was running 14th. Twenty-two cars are on the lead lap.

Kyle Busch gets loose exiting a turn and also kisses the wall with his right-rear quarter panel.


Green-flag stops start again on Lap 122. The race has passed the halfway point, which makes it official if rain returns. But you probably remember that from last week.

Jeff Gordon comes to pit road. Back on the track with no problems, but Greg Biffle wins the battle off pit road and takes the lead on Lap 129.

7:59 p.m.

Green-flag pit stops are starting on Lap 84. The order remains the same up front after the recycle -- Jeff Gordon first, Jimmie Johnson second and Kurt Busch third at Lap 90.

On Lap 96, there are 27 cars on the lead lap. Greg Biffle passes Johnson for second place, but he's 2.1 seconds behind Gordon.


One hundred laps in the books. We've had two green-flag passes for the lead.

Kyle Busch is running seventh. His quest for the triple isn't looking good.

7:44 p.m.

Jeff Gordon moves to second and is catching Jimmie Johnson at Lap 72. Gordon gets side-by-side with Johnson on Lap 76, but Johnson stays in front.

Gordon barely brushes the wall on Lap 77. He goes inside and leads Lap 78 by a couple of feet, then moves in front of Johnson.

7:18 p.m.

Kurt Busch wins the race off pit road and restarts in front of Jimmie Johnson on Lap 47. Jeff Gordon is third.

Johnson goes inside of Busch and leads by three feet and they get back to the line to start Lap 48. Johnson pulls ahead on the backstretch without any problem.

7:11 p.m.

With 30 laps complete, all 43 cars still are on the lead lap. But Dale Earnhardt Jr. still is way back in the pack at 36th.

Earnhardt told his crew the car is worse than it was in the final practice Saturday, and it wasn't good in Happy Hour.


Caution again for rain on Lap 42. It's going to be a long night.

All the leaders must pit this time.

6:55 p.m.

How many more times does a rain delay have to happen before NASCAR learns it needs to start races earlier in the day to have a larger window for possible wet conditions?


The restart comes on Lap 23. Jimmie Johnson leads, Jamie McMurray is second and Jeff Gordon is third. Kyle Busch has moved up from 11th to fifth, right behind his brother Kurt Busch.

Some of the drivers in the bottom half of the field came to the pits for gas and tires under the caution.

6:43 p.m.

Ryan Newman's transponder isn't working, so he came down pit road under the caution to get a new one. Newman has to come back in to fix the end plate on his wing.


Apparently, Angie Harmon has no intention of leaving the flag stand. She's having a blast up there, gesturing to drivers as they go by.

6:30 p.m.

Angie Harmon vigorously waves the green flag and Jimmie Johnson leads the first lap. The first caution flies on Lap 5 because of raindrops on the track.

Not again!

5:45 p.m.

Driver introductions are under way. The shadow of Hollywood does bring out a few stars.

Some of the VIPs here today include actor Hugh Laurie, actress Angie Harmon, baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson and former NFL player Jason Sehorn, who is Harmon's husband.


By the way, Jeff Burton did a little acting this week in L.A., playing himself on "General Hospital." The episode will air March 18.

"My Emmy's not due up until next year," Burton joked. "I would venture to say professional acting is not in my future.

"But it was fun. You think TV is TV, but it's all different. It often takes eight hours to do a 30-second commercial. But this was a two-minute scene that took 10 minutes. You have to be much more prepared. But I'm glad I did it.

Did Burton remember all his lines?

"I was fortunate," he said. "The scene is I'm sitting in a bar and I had a magazine in front of me, so I just put my lines in the magazine. It's not cheating. There's no rule against that. That's improvising. It worked."

And what was he doing in a bar in fictional Port Charles?

"Drinking," Burton said. "I don't know why I was there. That wasn't part of the script. But I wandered into a bar. Hey, I've spent a few hours in bars."

5 p.m.

I hate to be the bearer of possible bad news, but there is rain in the area. Rain showers are popping up all across SoCal.

The forecast lists only a 10 percent chance of rain Sunday, so let's hope the meteorologists are right. It's a cloudy day at Auto Club Speedway, but no rain so far.

One year ago is a bad memory. Cold and wet conditions caused water to seep up through the asphalt. The event was completed Monday, but NASCAR didn't suspend it until 11 p.m. PT Sunday.


For those who don't know how it works, No. 3 qualifier Jamie McMurray will move to the pole spot for the start of Sunday's race, not No. 2 qualifier Jimmie Johnson.

When a driver moves to the back for an engine change or any other reason, the line of cars behind him moves up. With pole winner Brian Vickers going to the back with an engine change, Mayfield moves to the inside of the front row because he was the driver behind Vickers.

3 p.m.

Granted, Cup events at Auto Club Speedway haven't produced the most exciting racing on the planet, but you have a chance to witness history on Sunday.

Kyle Busch can become the first driver to win all three NASCAR events in the same weekend.

Saturday he became the first to win two NASCAR races on the same day, dominating the Camping World Truck Series event in the afternoon and the Nationwide race that night.

That accomplishment isn't quite as impressive as it sounds because NASCAR rarely holds two events on the same day, but it sets up a possible trifecta that won't be forgotten.

The CWTS and Nationwide victories were so easy that Busch hardly looked as if he was trying. Sunday's Cup race will be much more difficult.

Busch will start 10th in the No. 18 Toyota. He was 11th on the speed chart in the final Cup practice Saturday.

Jimmie Johnson led the last practice with a lap that was more than 1 mph faster than the rest of the field. He won the race at ACS in August, his third victory on the 2-mile oval.

Carl Edwards won here a year ago, the sixth time in 17 Cup races at ACS that a Roush Fenway Racing driver has gone to Victory Lane. All five RFR drivers ranked among the top 13 in Happy Hour Saturday.

RFR driver Matt Kenseth, who has two ACS victories in his career, is trying to become the first man to start the season with back-to-back victories since Jeff Gordon in 1997.

So Rowdy Busch has his work cut out for him if he's going to do the triple.


Reed Sorenson hit the wall early in the final practice session Saturday, forcing the No. 43 Dodge team to go to a backup car.

Sorenson will give up his 17th starting spot and move to the back of the grid. He'll join Brian Vickers, who won the pole but had to change an engine after his qualifying lap, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had to change transmissions.

"Something broke on the right front,'' Sorenson said. "The car went right too fast for it to be a tire. I know the tie-rod was broke off it."

David Stremme also scraped the wall in Happy Hour but suffered minor damage and did not go to a backup car.


If you haven't seen "The Ride of Their Lives,'' I urge you to buy the recently released DVD. Buy it even if you have seen it. Any NASCAR fan will love this wonderful look at NASCAR history.

Some of the video in the film is rarely seen footage from a bygone era of stock-car racing.

Many of the top drivers are interviewed, including Richard Petty and Bobby Allison. Part of the film talks about Davey Allison, Bobby's son, and his tragic death in a helicopter crash at Talladega.

"Judy [Bobby's wife] and I watched it and shed some tears, but we really enjoyed the entire thing," Allison said. "I thought it was well done, even though it was tough in places for us to watch."

Bill France Jr. also was interviewed for the documentary a few months before his death.

Trust me, you will learn some interesting things about NASCAR you didn't know.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. was wrong about one thing involving his accident with Brian Vickers.

Earnhardt said Friday he wasn't eligible for the lucky dog (free pass to the lead lap) when the caution came out because of a previous penalty. Earnhardt, who was given a one-lap penalty for pitting outside the box, thought a driver couldn't get the lucky dog on the next caution after being penalized.

Incorrect. A driver can get the lucky dog after a penalty unless he's penalized for aggressive driving, the car is parked or NASCAR tells the driver he can't get the free pass.

A driver can't cause an accident and receive the lucky dog, but Earnhardt's pit-road penalty would not have kept him from getting the free pass.


Interesting side note about this weekend's events: All three series not only had full fields but even sent a few drivers home.

Cup had 48 drivers attempt to make the 43-car field, Nationwide had 47 and the Camping World Truck Series had 37 trucks show up in California for the 36-truck field.

Many people thought the economic climate would lead to short fields when the teams went cross-country for the California races, but the number of entries for all three series was an encouraging sign.


Sponsors for race teams are hard to come by and tough to keep in this economy, so why would a company re-up for a Nationwide team?

For the suits at Z-Line Designs, coming back to sponsor the No. 18 Toyota looks like a darn good investment right now.

Z-Line Designs president and CEO Jim Sexton saw his paint scheme get plenty of attention Saturday when Kyle Busch became the first driver to double-up with two NASCAR victories in one day.

Z-Line Designs is a furniture-design and import manufacturer based in San Ramon, Calif. The company now is 3-1 in Nationwide races in its home state at Auto Club Speedway, meaning it was on the winning car 75 percent of the time in the nation's second-largest market on national TV.

Last year, Z-Line won eight races while sponsoring the No. 18 Camry. That's marketing exposure hard to find anywhere else.


The biggest surprise of the CWTS race Saturday was the top-10 finish by a motorcycle legend. Former Motocross star Ricky Carmichael finished eighth in only his second Truck series start.

"Man, that was awesome," Carmichael said. "I learned so much and kept my nose clean."

Carmichael is driving the No. 4 Chevy for Kevin Harvick Inc., teaming with former champion Ron Hornaday Jr.

Veteran crew chief Billy Wilburn is guiding Carmichael's rookie season.

"To say this was expected would be wrong," Wilburn said of Carmichael's effort Saturday. "But Ricky surprises us every single time he goes on the track. We're looking for big things from him."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Terry can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.