FONTANA - They say it never rains in Southern California.
Well, apparently it does, giving the victory at the rain-shortened 16th annual Auto Club 400 on Sunday to defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
The race was stopped on lap 129 of a possible 200 laps due to a heavy spring storm that hit the area. Since the race had gone more than half the distance, it was declared official and the victory given to Stewart.
The yellow flag went up on lap 123 and was stopped six laps later. During the race there were five leaders and nine lead changes, with Kyle Busch - who finished second - leading for 80 laps of the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third.
Stewart, who is 18 points behind points leader Greg Biffle, said he was excited about the win, even if it was in a rain-shortened race.
"I'm just really excited obviously," Stewart said. "You hate to have it end with the rain. I've lost some that way. We never backed into the lead. We were in the lead and didn't back into that spot. I was proud of our day."
He added the wide track at Fontana usually helps drivers.
"The bigger the track, the more opportunities you have to get cars strung out, but we spent a lot of (Saturday) working on the high side and I thought that's where our car was our strongest," said Stewart, who started in the number nine position and led 42 laps. "When you get a car that was so balanced you get moved around. We could do that today. We could move lines. We had the flexibility."
Earnhardt said he'll take his finish.
"I thought the car was a little too loose, but we weren't making big changes," Earnhardt said. "I liked the speed. I thought we were going to get some yellows after we got past halfway. If we can keep going like this, maybe we can get some wins."
Busch agreed: "It was really good for us. We had a really good race. I wish we were able to race the whole thing. All in all it is was a really good day. I'm glad the rains came when they did and we'll take the second place finish. With the rains coming on we knew we just had a matter of time. We really could've won with five more laps, but everybody started short-pitting."
(Shel Segal can be reached at