Roger Penske may have been behind the building of the two-mile California Speedway in Fontana but Jack Roush can certainly call the invitingly wide D shaped oval 'home' as Matt Kenseth sealed Roush's fourth Nextel Cup victory in twelve races at the track and his third of the weekend.

After Mark Martin and Greg Biffle picked up the spoils in the Craftsman Truck and Busch Series races on Friday and Saturday, Kenseth completed the sweep in Sunday's Auto Club 500, the second round of the 2006 Nextel Cup Championship.

Kenseth's win was slightly fortuitous however, as the driver of the #17 DeWalt Ford watched Biffle and Tony Stewart, the two strongest drivers on the day, both retire with engine problems inside the final 35 of what was scheduled to be a 250 lap race, before picking up the pieces to score his eleventh, and the Ford Fusion's first points paying Cup Series victory.

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The final result sheet read Kenseth from Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton, although with 50 laps of the race remaining the picture was very different with Biffle and Stewart, who was on a slightly different pit strategy, a class above the rest of the pack.

In fact the final 50, or 51 laps as once again NASCAR's green-white-chequered rule came in to play, was very different from the opening 200, which were dominated by two things, Biffle and green flag racing.

From the outside of the front row it took the defending Auto Club 500 champion five laps to work his way around Bud Pole winner Kurt Busch for the lead, thereafter steadily increasing his advantage until a lap 30 caution flag for debris. Behind the fleeing #16 Ford, it was a welcome sight to see at least three full racing grooves working well with cars able to pass on the low side as well as the high side right from the word go.

Although Busch's #2 Penske Racing team were able to get their driver off pit road in front of the field after the first round of stops, Biffle was back on point barely a lap after the green flag waved and pulling away once again. However it was during the period between the race's first caution flag and the second yellow, again caused by debris on lap 87, that Biffle was actually shown a clean pair of heels for the only time as Stewart charged to the front on lap 60.

From 12th on the grid, the defending series champion showed all of the qualities that led to his second Nextel Cup title with some wonderfully aggressive but clean driving combined with a good dollop of racing courtesy to boot as he challenged Biffle for the lead, nearly sliding into the side of the #16 Ford before completing the pass in turn two on lap 60.

Stewart also had the task of leading the field through the first round of green flag pit stops of the 2006 season, which occurred shortly before the second yellow. While Stewart's lap 79 stop went smoothly, the same could not be said for Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers who both lost time and, in Vickers case, a whole lap after he broke the pit road speed limit and was called in for a drive through penalty.

Stewart and Biffle assumed first and second as the stops cycled through, Stewart holding one second in hand over his nearest rival and a massive 12 seconds over Edwards and Kenseth in third and fourth.

The second caution flag packed the field back together, and sent everyone down pit road for another change of tyres with Kenseth and Busch electing to take only two tyres and Stewart's #20 Joe Gibbs team suffering problems with the left rear tyre, losing 15 places in the process.

Stewart's temporary slip and Kenseth and Busch's pit strategy opened the door for Biffle, who took just four laps to bypass the top two and retake the lead on lap 96.

The race then enjoyed uninterrupted green flag racing for the next 100 laps, a period that included two further rounds of green flag pit stops and a display of utter domination from Biffle who, at times, held a lead of more than 12 seconds over his nearest rival.

Behind Biffle, the man on the move was Stewart, who rose from 15th to fifth by lap 120 before his left front Goodyear cried enough in turn four on lap 121. Lucky the puncture occurred just before pit exit and Stewart was able to make it to his pit stall without tearing up any bodywork. The failure also occurred less than 15 laps before the next round of pit stops, which, luckily for Stewart, all occurred under green flag conditions. By the time the field had cycled through, Stewart was up to a remarkable second place, a little over five seconds behind Biffle and in the midst of a thoroughly storming drive.

However Stewart's older tyres meant he faded to fifth before the next round of stops with 75 laps remaining, again under green flag conditions. By the time Stewart pitted he was running sixth and nearly half a lap behind Biffle who in turn had a ten second advantage over second place man Kenseth and third place Mark Martin.

By the time the stops had finished Biffle's lead was up to an incredible 14 seconds over Martin and Kenseth, but with Stewart now back up to second overall and just four seconds in arrears.

Stewart caught a break on lap 194 when the caution flag finally waved for yet more debris on the circuit, allowing him to get back on the same pit strategy as everyone else and also allowing Jeff Gordon a chance to change a battery that had been causing his #24 DuPont Chevrolet problems for nearly 100 laps.

The green flag waved with 51 advertised laps remaining and Biffle leading Stewart, Martin, Kenseth and Edwards with Stewart the only non-Roush interloper. While Stewart kept within a couple of second of Biffle, it was not the battle royal that the full, but not sold out, grandstands were expecting and there was almost a collective groan as the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet began slipping back towards new third place man Kenseth. By lap 213 Kenseth had caught Stewart and passed him with ease, with Stewart's #20 beginning to show ominous signs of smoke soon after.

That smoke became terminal within a matter of minutes, spraying enough oil over the circuit to warrant another caution flag, bringing a champion-esque drive to a premature end. Remarkably Stewart was the first confirmed retirement as all 43 starters remained on track, leaving a drive that should have been credited with a top five finish at least actually result in a stone-last 43rd place.

The rest of the field made what would turn out to be the final round of stops under the Stewart-yellow, Jeff Gordon playing the strategy card and taking just two new tyres to move into first place. He would lead Kenseth and Biffle off pit road as Kenseth's #17 DeWalt crew pulled off a critically fast pit stop.

Gordon's lead lasted less than a lap under green flag conditions, as his Hendrick Chevrolet proved no match for Kenseth's Roush Ford. As Kenseth made the decisive move on the front straight with 218 laps in the books, Stanton Barrett spun in turn four several hundreds metres behind the leaders and brought out another caution flag.

Racing resumed again, albeit briefly on lap 223, but ended two laps later after a host of drivers encountered problems almost simultaneously. Dale Jarrett's #88 Robert Yates Racing Ford began spewing water, Kurt Busch spun after contact with JJ Yeley in turn four. Most significantly was the smoke beginning to belch from the side of Biffle's car, now running in second place behind Kenseth.

Thinking he was running on seven cylinders Biffle elected to stay on track for the final 22 lap green flag run and try and salvage a lead lap finish but was swamped as soon as the green flag came out. His problems worse than first believed, a dejected Biffle pulled into the garage shortly after and after leading more laps (168) in a single Cup Series race at California than any other driver in the circuit's history, finished 42nd.

Biffle's slow restart was a blessing for teammate Kenseth, who had a ten car length lead by the time Jimmie Johnson, whose recovery from his earlier slow pit stop had been slow and painstaking, got around the slowing #16 Ford. Kenseth quickly established a gap of more than a second back to Johnson and looked comfortable for the win until Scott Wimmer's engine cried enough on lap 246, bringing out the seventh caution of the day and necessitating a green-white-chequered flag finish for the second week in a row.

Roughly half of the 17 lead lap cars chose to pit for new tyres for the final two lap dash, although Kenseth was not one of them and when the green flag waved, the 2003 Cup Series champion timed his restart perfectly, never allowing Johnson a chance to threaten and crossing the line with room to spare for his eleventh career victory.

Johnson narrowly failed to match teammate Gordon's 1997 feat of winning the opening two races of the season but a second place finish at a track like California arguably holds more value to the #48 team and stand-in crew chief Darian Grubb than the Daytona 500 victory. With Las Vegas and Atlanta, the next two tracks on the schedule requiring a similar approach set-up wise to California, Mr Hendrick will be feeling much more at ease about Johnson's chances until his regular crew chief Chad Knaus is allowed back to work.

Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne swapped places twice on the final lap and it was Kenseth's Roush teammate who got the upper hand in the end, just holding off Kahne's #9 Evernham Motorsports Dodge Charger, which proved far more competitive in race trim than the 2004 Dodge Intrepid's used by Penske teammates Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.

Busch would have been a top ten contender had it not been for his late spin, which relegated him to 16th at the finish, but Ryan Newman wasn't a factor all day and finished one lap down in 20th.

There were better runs for Jeff Burton, who ran in the top three in the opening stages before fading slightly in the middle of the race and then recovering well in the final quarter. Easily the strongest Richard Childress Racing entry the Daytona 500 pole winner crossed the line in fifth position, holding off the third Roush Ford of Jamie McMurray and Daytona 500 runner-up Casey Mears.

Contact with Kurt Busch aside, JJ Yeley put in his most accomplished Nextel Cup performance to date with a strong run to eighth place, leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates in the process and passing Mark Martin for position in the final laps. Martin, who looked like an easy top five player for much of the day, faded dramatically in the final 30 laps and was perhaps nursing an engine that had a similar problem to that of teammate Biffle.

Kyle Busch, the most recent Nextel Cup winner at Fontana, completed the top ten with Dale Earnhardt Jr eleventh after a decent, if not headline-making run that required the assistance of the Lucky Dog pass to keep him on the lead lap. Denny Hamlin survived a wild spin through the tri-oval grass to finish 12th, one place ahead of Gordon, whose left hand side tyres had more than 50 laps on them when the chequered flag fell.

Such was the dominance of Biffle and Roush Racing as a whole coupled with the absence of any caution flags during the middle portion of the race left many big names well off the radar. With few opportunities to improve their handling, Jeremy Mayfield and Elliott Sadler both finished well over a lap down in 22nd and 23rd place respectively while Kevin Harvick was a further lap in arrears in 29th. Petty Enterprises and MB2 Motorsports both stumbled badly, with Kyle Petty's 25th place finish the highest of the four drivers competing for those two teams.

With a first and a second in two races, it is no surprise to see Jimmie Johnson leading the points table by nearly 40 markers over Casey Mears, with Kenseth up to third, Kahne fourth and a certain Dale Earnhardt Jr fifth.

The teams and drivers now have a rare weekend off in terms of Nextel Cup racing before the series reconvenes in Las Vegas, although many of the folk involved in Sunday's show will be heading south of the border for the Mexico City Busch Series race.