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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