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article imageNASCAR: Super day for 'Superman' in California

By John Duarte     Mar 21, 2016 in Sports
Fontana - Two Californians battled during the final lap of a race on home soil, with Jimmie Johnson winning the the Auto Club 400 going away in Fontana, California.
Johnson put his plan into action as the field restarted after a caution period caused when reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch blew a tire two laps from the end of the scheduled 200-lap distance, sending the race at Auto Club Speedway into [i]overtime[/i].
Denny Hamlin led the cars out on the restart on the outside of the track, with Kevin Harvick and Johnson following in the inside lane. Johnson pushed Harvick, who had led the race for 142 laps, past Hamlin and set up the final duel. Johnson then got by Harvick and looked to be pulling away as the two raced for the finish line. He said the caution came at a bad time due to the fact that he “just didn't have the tires on the car” to keep up with the font runners. What Johnson called a “bad time” turned into a good timing as the field headed for overtime.
“I got a great run off Turn 2 and I thought, 'Man, I've got a shot at this thing,' which I didn't expect to have. Harvick has been so fast,” said Johnson who closed the race with his fastest lap of the afternoon. “We saved the best for last for sure.”
Harvick is enjoying a great start to the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season and is the only driver on the circuit to finish in the Top 10 in all five races this season. Happy for the finish, and the valuable points that kept him atop the drivers standings, Harvick said his car was not very good on restarts, especially in traffic, and called the last caution period “the worst-case scenario” for the outcome of the race.
“We just weren't able to drive it like we needed to, just didn't have the front tires turning and the back wouldn't grip,” Harvick said. “That sucks. Just way to tight right there. Couldn't put the throttle down. Wouldn't turn.”
The victory at Auto Club Speedway was the sixth in his career at the Fontana, California, race track, which is like a “home track” for him. Both Johnson and Harvick are natives of California. Johnson is from El Cajon, which is near San Diego, while Harvick hails from Bakersfield, which is north of Los Angeles.
“There's nothing like winning at home,” said Johnson.
Hamlin ended up third in the race.
The win, the 77th of Johnson's Sprint Cup career, puts him all alone in seventh place on the NASCAR all-time list for wins in the top level series.
The win also decided the battle between Superman (Johnson) and Batman (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Johnson's and Earnhardt's cars were adorned with the superhero logos to promote the upcoming movie Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
“I told everybody Superman kicked Batman's butt,” said Johnson. Earnhardt finished 11th in the race.
Harvick's fifth-consecutive Top-10 finish keep him on top of the drivers standings. He has an 11-point lead over this week's winner Johnson and is 24 points ahead of Carl Edwards.
The Sprint Cup Series now has a one-week break before the NASCAR schedule heads back to the eastern United States and the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, in Virginia, on April 3.
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