Kyle Busch earns 29th career victory in Auto Club 400
FONTANA, Calif. — Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson took advantage of two fresh tires on a green-white-checkered restart at the end of the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday to get out in front of the field on the final lap.
Busch won the battle, claiming his 29th career Sprint Cup victory and his third at the track. Larson’s runner-up finish was his career best in the series.
Kurt Busch took only two tires during the final caution that resulted in the two-lap sprint to the finish and held on for third. Matt Kenseth was fourth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.
Tire problems plagued several drivers throughout the race, with at least 20 tire issues causing cautions or, at the very least, bringing cars down pit road prematurely.
Jimmie Johnson, who led a race-high 104 laps and was in front with 10 laps to go, gave up the lead to pit for tires with seven laps remaining. Two laps later, Brad Keselowski had a flat tire and so did Marcos Ambrose.
A yellow flag waved with three laps remaining in the scheduled 200-lap distance when a tire issue sent Clint Bowyer into a spin.
During the caution, every driver except for Landon Cassill headed for pit road for at least two tires. The Stewart-Haas Racing duo of Kurt Busch and Stewart took only two tires for track position, as did Paul Menard.
Meanwhile, Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon, among others, took four. Gordon had inherited the lead when Johnson pitted just before the caution, but with Cassill staying out and a few drivers taking two, Gordon wound up in the back of the top-10 for the restart.
Cassill dropped back through the field and outside the top-10 on his older tires after the race restarted. Kurt Busch, who restarted fifth, and Larson, who restarted ninth, moved toward the front.
On the first lap of the race, Keselowski took the lead from pole-sitter Kenseth and dominated the early stages. Keselowski led a total of 38 laps and wound up 26th at the end after multiple tire issues.
Johnson led most of the way, with Gordon eventually joining him at the front after racing through the field twice. Gordon was caught speeding on pit road during the first caution of the race just before lap 20 and restarted in the back.
Gordon made his way back up through the field to claim second just before lap 130. Ten laps later, he passed Johnson to go in front. For much of the remainder of the race, Johnson and Gordon swapped the lead back and forth.
Gordon’s chances to win went away in the final 20 laps when he fell back through the field and reported a vibration to his team. He wound up 13th.
Jamie McMurray finished sixth. Vickers was seventh, A.J. Allmendinger eighth, Paul Menard ninth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-10