NASCAR Photo Galleries: • Fans Auto Club 500: One | Two | Three Complete coverage: Motor Sports Despite a strong, promising potential podium finish, he ended up eighth. He was penalized with a drive-through penalty down pit road at 55 mph on the next lap – while everyone else went by at 200 mph – and he re-entered the race in 23rd place. By the time all the pit stops had cycled through, Stewart was in 17th place, just more than 25 seconds – about half a track length – behind eventual winner Matt Kenseth. Stewart also had one of the cars to beat last week at Daytona, and also was penalized for speeding in the pits. He was involved in an accident with Kurt Busch in that race and finished 43rd, and last. “I was 300 RPM under,” he said of Sunday’s pit-road speed. “I don’t know … Unless the line is a spot that I don’t know where it’s at. They’ve got the computer stuff and it tells you exactly when and where.” There were no caution periods for the next 50 laps. Stewart was consistently running a second faster than leader Kenseth, but he was just too far back to make a run for the lead. “Tony was strong at times, but Matt had the car to beat,” said Jeff Gordon, who finished in second place. Stewart was up to 10th place when caution finally came, at Lap 227, for debris. He took four tires and went out in ninth place, and was up to seventh with 17 laps left. When David Reutimann crashed with seven laps to go, bringing out a red flag for 15 minutes, 8 seconds, Stewart opted to take four tires and fuel when the yellow flag came back out. “We had to do something,” he said. “We knew the guys behind us were going to take tires. We were kind of right in the middle of a cut-off point. We knew a certain amount of guys were going to take four and the rest of them were going to stay out that were a little farther up there. So we just took the chance.” He exited the pits with four laps to go in 12th place. He moved up one position each subsequent lap. But there was just too much traffic to get to the front of the pack. He’s won one of the Southern California titles he has sought – the Turkey Night Grand Prix for USAC Midget Cars at Irwindale Speedway – but he still hasn’t won what many would consider a bigger prize. “That’s definitely a high priority for me this year,” he said of the races at the four Cup tracks where he has not been a winner. “I like the California track, but we have not had much luck there. It’s just something we haven’t been able to put the whole day together at California to make that happen.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! FONTANA – Tony Stewart is still California dreamin’. The two-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion once again had one of the fastest cars at California Speedway but – like it always seems to happen – he ended up empty on a cool, windy Sunday afternoon in the Auto Club 500. “I don’t know (if we had the car to beat),” Stewart said. “We had a chance. We had a good race car.” Stewart has never won at California Speedway in 16 races in three different series. His best finish in Cup was the 1999 race when he was fourth. His best finish at the track was second in the 2004 Busch Series race. It just seems like trouble follows Stewart whenever he’s on the two-mile Fontana oval. He was running second in the spring race last year when his engine blew. He finished 43rd and last. He’s been near the lead in other races at Fontana when his car experienced engine problems. Sunday, Stewart was once again in the lead when disaster struck. But this time, it had nothing to do with the engine. On green-flag pit stops with just less than 100 laps to go, NASCAR computers had Stewart going too fast at the entrance of pit road, where the speed is 55 mph. Radio communication indicated he was going 60.92 mph in the middle of pit road and NASCAR allows for a grace speed of an extra 5 mph.