No surprise: Jimmie Johnson leads halfway in Auto Club 400 at Fontana

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When you already have a record five wins there, it’s no surprise that Jimmie Johnson was the race leader at the halfway point (100 laps) of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Auto Club Speedway.

Johnson appeared headed for not only another win there, but looked as if he was ready to dominate the second half of the race.

Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, was second at halfway, but it wasn’t easy. Gordon fell back to near the back of the field not once but twice before rallying back.

Pole sitter Matt Kenseth was scored in third, while Joey Logano was fourth and Greg Biffle had the fastest Ford, sitting in fifth place.

Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. had tire issues early in the race and was forced to go to pit road, falling one lap down, but his team quickly repaired the damage and he was able to not only get back on the lead lap but also up to sixth by midway.

Kyle Busch appeared to have issues with his motor, seemingly not having maximum power, but he was able to overcome that and worked his way back up to seventh.

Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick was eighth at midway, followed by Bristol winner Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray in 10th.

Outside pole sitter Brad Keselowski led 38 of the first 100 laps, but fell back to 15th at the midpoint of the race.

Sam Hornish Jr. was a late replacement behind the wheel for Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Hamlin was suffering from a sinus infection that was affecting his vision.

As a result, Hornish was forced to start at the back of the field.

Auto Club Speedway was also the site of Hamlin’s serious crash in last year’s Sprint Cup race that forced him to miss four races recovering from his injuries.

Several drivers had mechanical and tire issues, while others had issues with spins or wrecks, including Tony Stewart, Aric Almirola and Brian Scott.

And Parker Kligerman continued to have the worst luck of everyone in the series, being forced out of the race after 85 laps due to a wreck.

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Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.