Commentary

Plenty of SoCal in NASCAR

Five drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, one from Nationwide have area ties

Updated: March 23, 2011, 10:13 PM ET
By Tim Haddock | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers grew up in Southern California. Some raced in the old NASCAR Winston West Series and the Southwest Tour at tiny tracks like Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Saugus Speedway and Mesa Marin in Bakersfield. Jimmie Johnson, who grew up in El Cajon racing off-road trucks before turning to NASCAR, is the most successful of the Southern California contingent. He has won five Sprint Cup Series championships in a row and is seventh in the Cup standings after four races. He has won five Cup races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, including last year's race in February.

Here's a look at the five Cup drivers from Southern California who are entered in Sunday's Auto Club 400 and how they did at the race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday.


Johnson
Johnson

JIMMIE JOHNSON, driver of the No. 48
Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet from El Cajon

• He finished third at Bristol after leading 164 of the 500 laps. A pit stop mishap cost Johnson a chance at the win. He was leading when he came into pit under caution on Lap 428, but his rear tire changer slipped during the pit stop and Johnson came out in fourth place. "I think we had a slip on the rear tire changer coming around the back of the car," Johnson said. "Amazing, one little slip on pit road, what it equals on the race track." Johnson is seventh in the Cup standings.


Harvick
Harvick

KEVIN HARVICK, driver of the No. 29
Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet from Bakersfield

• He finished sixth at Bristol after starting the race from the 15th position. He led 37 laps. "These guys are doing a great job and I really think it shows the maturity of the team and the things that we go through and the way we've been able to come back," Harvick said after the Bristol race. In 17 Cup races at Auto Club Speedway, Harvick has six top-10 finishes. His best finish came last year in February, when he was second to Johnson. Harvick is 15th in the Cup standings.


Gilliland
Gilliland

DAVID GILLILAND, driver of the No. 34
Front Row Motorsports Ford from Riverside

• He finished 27th at Bristol. He led four laps early but ran out of gas midway through the race, had tire troubles and had to fight his way back through the field. "Today just wasn't our day," Gilliland said after the race. "We got ourselves up front early in the race by staying out under the caution, but then we got bit by running out of fuel. It was still early enough in the race for us to battle our way back, but then we cut a couple of tires. After that, we actually didn't have our TMone/Taco Bell Ford running too bad. I think we ran our fastest lap toward the end of the race. But we were just too far back at that point to gain too much. We'll look for a comeback in California." He is 22nd in the Cup standings.


Gordon
Gordon

ROBBY GORDON, driver of the No. 7
Robby Gordon Motorsports Dodge from Orange

• He was credited with a 39th-place finish at Bristol. He was collected in an accident in Turn 2 on Lap 130 and did not return to the race. Gordon is on probation until Dec. 31 after an altercation with driver Kevin Conway at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 4. He has one top-10 finish in 16 career Cup races at Auto Club Speedway. He finished ninth in the Labor Day race in 2004, his fourth career Cup start at the Fontana track. He is 32nd in the Cup standings.


Mears

Mears

CASEY MEARS, driver of the No. 13
Germain Racing Toyota from Bakersfield

• He finished 37th at Bristol after the fuel pump on his car failed during the race. "Here at Bristol, this last weekend, we had a great car. In qualifying, the 36 car [Dave Blaney], they punctured an oil line and we had oil all over track. We were out there slipping in the oil. We barely made the show, qualified 40th. Our performance on the track has been good. We had a fast car at Daytona. We had a fast car at Phoenix. Vegas was mediocre, but we had a fast car again at Bristol. It was just unfortunate we had a parts failure. We could run with the leaders, no problem." He has two top-10 finishes in 14 career Cup races at Auto Club Speedway. He best finish came in the February race in 2006, when he finished seventh. He is 33rd in the Cup standings.


NATIONWIDE SERIES
Leffler

Leffler

JASON LEFFLER, driver of the No. 38
Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports from Long Beach

• He is the surprise leader of the Nationwide Series after four races. He is coming off an eighth-place finish after starting in second and on the front row with Ricky Stenhouse at Bristol. He has won one pole and has two top-10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway. He has three top-10 finishes in four races this season. He was sixth in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. He was ninth in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas.

Tim Haddock is the author of the motorsports blog Haddock in the Paddock and also covers prep sports for ESPNLA.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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