FONTANA, Calif. (AP) - NASCAR's decision to move one of the two races from Auto Club Speedway was precipitated by declining attendance.
The belief was that having two races so close together diluted interest from Southern California fans and, combined with the sluggish economy, often forced people to choose one race instead of attending both.
Now that the fall Chase race is gone, how will Fontana do at the gate?
It might be hard to tell based on this weekend's race since it's just five months after the last one, but one California native agrees with the decision.
``We've seen some open seats here and that's just the truth of the matter,'' said five-time reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson, who's from El Cajon. ``I know there are a lot of dedicated race fans in the area, but we need to somehow get them in the seats.''
Auto Club Speedway had hosted two Sprint Cup races every year since 2004, one each in spring and fall.
The track routinely brought in 100,000 spectators after opening in 1997 and had done well the first few years it held two races in the same season. But attendance dropped off over the past few years, the grandstand barely half-full for each of the past two fall races.
Hoping to spark interest, NASCAR moved the fall race to Kansas for a second date there, leaving Fontana with just one.
``I hate to see it leave, but at the same time, if we don't have the support, then we have to find the areas that will support our sport and fill up the grandstands and all that kind of thing. Only time will tell how this will work out. I feel in my heart that one race will create a buzz.''
NASCAR IDOLS: Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne had star-struck experiences before getting to work this weekend in Southern California: The two young drivers were invited to watch ``American Idol'' shoot live for its results show Thursday night.
Logano and Bayne got to sit in the front row directly behind the judges and got some decent air time.
``Man, that was awesome,'' said Bayne, who became the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever in February. ``I have gotten to do some really cool things recently, but (Thursday) night ranks right up there. I was so excited when I found out that I was getting to go and check it out.''
Logano and Bayne got to meet the judges and contestants, and Logano spoke with wrestler Hulk Hogan backstage.
``I was a total fan, you know?'' Logano said. ``I was on the other end of the spectrum than I normally am. It was cool to meet all those guys and get some pictures.''
The experience left Logano wondering if he shouldn't change to a more glamorous look.
``Steven Tyler is the man, apparently,'' he said. ``Maybe I should start dressing like him.''
LESS IS MORE: For the final fall race at Auto Club Speedway, the distance was trimmed 100 miles down to 400, which stayed the same for this week.
By many accounts, it was a good move.
``I think it's a good thing,'' Kasey Kahne said. ``I like 400-mile races. The 600 (at Charlotte) is always nice and a couple of the 500-milers, but Indy is 400 and here is 400 and I think that's good. There's a few tracks that could be 400 and probably be a better show than what you'll get for 500.''
NO TWITTER FOR JUNIOR: Many NASCAR drivers have gotten involved with Twitter, some extensively, tweeting practically from the moment they wake up in the morning.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't one of them. Certainly, he understands Twitter's usefulness and his team's use of it, but he just can't get into it.
``I used to have a page and I used to have a Facebook page, (but) I don't anymore because it was just too much responsibility,'' he said. ``I felt like you had to plug in and be involved with it so much and I thought personally I don't need to do it. I understand we use it on the business side of it and how it works for JRM, but personally, you know, it would be fun for about a month and then I would start to feel like it was a job where people expected me to do it.''
Rain pushed back qualifying on Friday, but there were no weather issues on Saturday for Sprint Cup practice or the Nationwide race despite heavy cloud cover. Rain was forecast overnight, but was expected to clear up by the morning. ... There have been 13 different race winners at Auto Club Speedway. ... Polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya's best finish at Fontana was third at the 2009 fall race.

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