Kyle Busch was good on restarts and proved that in a Green-White-Checkered finish in the Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Sunday afternoon.
Busch displayed speed on restarts throughout the race but couldn’t make the charge to the front. That would change in the last three laps of the race. In the G-W-C situation, Busch started in the sixth position and had a chance to sneak by Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch who were challenging each other for the lead. Busch’s No. 18 brought Rookie Kyle Larson with him and they battled each other for the lead by the time the checkered flag flew. Larson nearly made it a weekend sweep at Auto Club Speedway.
However, it was Kyle Busch with the win and joins Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Tires were an issue in the Sprint Cup Series race as aggressive setups were apparently causing issues with the left side tires. The tires were only good for 25 or so laps before many of the left sides blew. It caused an issue for many cars throughout the race. Kevin Harvick had a left rear tire issue twice within the race and Jimmie Johnson had a front left tire go down while leading with 20 laps left to go in the race. Shortly after Johnson suffered a tire issue, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose and Clint Bowyer had failed tires. Clint Bowyer spun after he couldn’t control his car after a tire went down and brought out the last caution of the day. That set up the G-W-C- finish.
How important tires were every pit stop was demonstrated by Brad Keselowski whose team opted not to take tires after a round of caution flag pit stops and went from first to 36th in a matter of a few laps. He was able to rebound before a left tire issue caused him to pit under green and lose track position. He finished 26th. Landon Cassill’s team did not take tires on the last pit stop of the day with the G-W-C looming. He restarted in the top spot but with everyone on either two or four fresh tires, it was like he stood still. Cassill would finish in the 25th spot.
Nine cautions were called throughout the race. On lap 70, the fourth caution was for an incident between Brian Scott and Aric Almirola. It appeared that Scott slid up the track and got into the rear of Almirola when sent both cars spinning into the grass in front of pit road. Almirola was not happy with Scott’s driving when he spoke to reporters after the incident, saying that Scott was “a dart without feathers”. Josh Wise and David Gilliland had trouble on lap 166. Gilliland suffered a tire issue and got into the wall and Wise had scraped the wall as well.
Denny Hamlin did not start the race as he had a sinus infection that caused an issue with his eyes. He was not medically cleared to start the race so fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Sam Hornish, Jr., jumped in. He was in California to take over for Matt Kenseth in case his wife went into labor. Hornish had worked all day to work through traffic and had gotten up to 11th place at one time. He slapped the wall on lap 175 and was shuffled back ten spots.
A positive note for Stewart-Haas Racing: Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart finished third and fifth. Both drivers were happy about those finishes when interviewed by FoxSports1 reporters at the end of the race. Both were hungry for the win, but both called their finishes as progress.
Jeff Gordon proved he’s still got it as the charged through the field twice to the top five. He was busted speeding on pit lane and had to restart at the tail end of the field. He inched his way all the way to the second spot and when Johnson had his tire issue within 20 laps to go, Gordon found his way to the lead.
After leading some laps and yo-yoing back and forth, Matt Kenseth salvaged a top five finish. He and Johnson battled several times throughout the race for the lead.
The top ten included Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards.
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup race will be Sunday, March 30 at 1 p.m. ET at Martinsville Speedway.