On a clear day you can see….the mountains from Auto Club Speedway. This isn’t always so from the two-mile speedway, scene of this weekend’s Pepsi Max 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. But the not so gentle breezes Thursday after a Wednesday rain storm have cleared the air. Friday the weather was sunny and clear with the breeze picking up steam as the day progressed.
Forty-five Sprint Cup drivers are entered for Sundays 400-lap race, shortened from the usual 500 laps. The Nationwide Series Camping World 300 race is … 300 miles, and also has 45 drivers for the 43 slots.
JAMIE McMURRAY/No.1 Chevrolet was the fastest Cup driver in the first Friday practice at 39.166/183.833 mph. Second was A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Ford – one of the nine California natives in the field. Third through fifth were GREG BIFFLE/No.16 Ford, KYLE BUSCH/No.17 Toyota, and MARK MARTIN/No.5 Chevrolet.
Martin has offered his expertise and assistance as a driver coach to fledgling NASCAR driver, DANICA PATRICK, who is racing No.7 Chevrolet in the NNS. She will be running the last six races, now that the IndyCar season has ended. Patrick ended the open-wheel season’s finale race at Homestead Miami Speedway with a second-place finish, and she was tenth overall in the 2010 standings.
Something clicked for Patrick after that noon press conference, as she was fourth overall in the second Nationwide practice Friday afternoon.
Friday, Patrick announced that she will have Tissot watches as primary sponsor for the Fontana NNS race, and associate for the rest of the 2010 season. Patrick, who has been an personal ambassador for Tissot since 2005, will have Tissot on her car for all the 2011 races. At Chicagoland, a track to which IndyCar is not returning next year, Tissot will be the primary sponsor, and associate at all the other races – number not announced.
MARTIN TRUEX, Jr/No.99 Toyota was the top NNS driver in the first Friday practice at 40.141/179.368 mph. Second through fifth were CARL EDWARDS/No.60 Ford, JOEY LOGANO/No.20 Toyota, Rookie RICKY STENHOUSE Jr/No.6 Ford and JUSTIN ALLGAIER/No.12 Dodge.
Logano was fastest in the second NNS practice Friday, at 40.824/176.367 mph. Second through fifth were Truex, Jr, RICKY CARMICHAEL/No.10 Toyota, Patrick, and Busch.
Auto Club Speedway is jumping into the turbulent California political scene feet first. MEG WHITMAN, Republican gubernatorial candidate, will be the Grand Marshal for the Cup race, while the Republican candidate for Senator, CARLY FIORINA, will be the honorary starter for the Nationwide race.
Cup Qualifying is Friday afternoon, the NNS race is 1:30pm local time/4:30pm EDT, and the Cup race is Sunday noon local time/3pm EDT.