Sprint Cup Notebook for Saturday On Friday afternoon Brian Vickers, driver of the #83 Red Bull Racing Toyota, felt like he was on top of the world after winning the Coors Light Pole Award at the Auto Club Speedway. Vickers turned a lap of 183.429 MPH around the speedway's two mile oval and the fast time stood during the course of the afternoon despite a serious challenge from Jimmie Johnson. There was another reason why Vickers was on top of the world. He truly believed that winning the Coors Light Pole in Fontana was going to alleviate some of the stress he's had to deal with following the controversy from last Sunday's Daytona 500.
But auto racing is full of surprises and the complexion of a race can change in virtually no time at all. One hour after celebrating his qualifying run Vickers got bad news from his crew chief. During the course of changing his Toyota from qualifying to race trim a problem with the engine was discovered. A problem serious enough to force the team to notify NASCAR officials that they were going to have to make an engine change. When the field for Sunday's Auto Club 500 begins the pre race parade laps Vickers will have to make that slow and agonizing move to the rear of the field.
NOW THE SEASON REALLY BEGINS
With the special pomp and circumstances of the Daytona 500 behind them, NASCAR's Sprint Cup teams are turning their attention to what they believe is the true start of the 2009 racing season. Sunday's Auto Club 500 will be a true test of the strength and weakness for the teams. In an era where NASCAR has issued a ban on testing, the Auto Club Speedway will play a prominent role with car chiefs who will be taking copious notes that can be used for upcoming races at super speedways.
Despite being winless at the Auto Club Speedway Tony Stewart, driver/owner of the Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet, said he really enjoys coming to California in February because he feels that's where the Sprint Cup season actually starts. "It's a track where you really don't worry about what everybody else's car is doing. You worry about what your car is doing because you're racing the race track. It's a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things," the two time NASCAR champion said.
Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Carhart Ford, is looking forward to the Auto Club 500. He has back to back February wins in 2006 and 2007. The former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion also agrees that the Auto Club Speedway is one of three tracks that will help teams get a perspective on things to come. "the Auto Club Speedway, Atlanta and Bristol, and any track similar to them, are the bread and butter of any season. They are the tracks that you have to run good at to be a serious championship contender," Kenseth said.
SOMEONE HAS TO GET THIS THING STARTED
Earlier in the week there were reports that said actress Terri Hatcher, the star of the ABC television series "Desperate Housewives" was going to be the honorary starter for the Auto Club 500. Apparently there has been a change. The initial green flag to launch Sunday's race will now be waved by actress Angie Harmon and her husband Jason Sehorn. Harmon is best known for her role as Abbie Carmichael from the award wining NBC series "Law And Order." Sehorn is a former NFL defensive end with the New York Giants.
What do you mean you don't care? The important thing here is someone will be in the flag stand to make sure the Auto Club 500 gets underway. Dave Grayson
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