NASCAR’s West Coast Swing came to an end on Sunday, as per tradition, as the Auto Club Speedway. Kyle Larson, driving the No. 42 Target Chevrolet led the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Auto Club 400. The 24-year-old was looking to make history as the second driver in Auto Club Speedway history to win the race from the pole.
The race started off eventful as the green flag fell. Denny Hamlin, driving the No.11 SportsClips Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, failed to get going at the start, resulting in a stack up. Brad Keselowski would make contact with last week’s race winner Ryan Newman, resulting in a tire rub on left rear of Brad’s No. 2 Wurth Ford. Kevin Harvick’s BUSCH Ford would also suffered front end damage after plowing into the back of Newman. Harvick, Newman, and Keselowski would all suffer damage from the chain reaction. After nursing the tire rub for four laps, Keselowski would spin after getting loose off of turn four, and with some help from Jimmie Johnson, resulting in the first caution.
Due to NASCAR’s newest regulation of starting races on your qualifying tires, drivers were able to pit to get a fresh set of Goodyear Tires and see how the Auto Club surface would play with the tires.
Larson would continue to set the pace, with Bakersfield, California’s Harvick cutting a tire on lap 26. Harvick, in addition to the green flag damage and the cut tire, ended up brushing the wall in practice earlier in the weekend. Not going to a backup car, the No. 4 BUSCH Boys decided to repair the car, and salvage a 13th place finish. Larson would wrap up Stage One victorious.
After a pit road mistake by Larson, Martin Truex Jr. would take command of the race. Larson pulled into his pit box a little too far, resulting in the jack-man having to move closer to the car, costing Larson precious time on pit road. Truex, who is having his best career start of a season throughout his career, would claim the Stage Two victory. Following Stage Two, pit stops began and Truex would lose five spots as a Joe Gibbs parade followed Larson out of pit road.
Six time California winner Jimmie Johnson had himself a rare weekend. He would spin in practice, go to a backup car, and then found himself spinning on pit road, trying to avoid Truex while he was exiting his pit box with 44 laps to go. Jimmie would park his car perpendicular to his pitbox and be serviced.
On a late race restart, Matt Kenseth would find the inside wall on the backstretch after a violent hit, as Kenseth slid and went driver side first into a proturding wall where safety vehicles parked. Kenseth radioed to his crew he was okay but “not as okay as last week”. Kenseth for a second straight week would make furicious contact with a SAFER barrier. NASAR plans to re-evulate the wall and Kenseth’s car.
NASCAR would send the Auto Club Race into overtime, Larson would pull away. For the California kid, Larson would bring his Target Chevrolet across the line first. Larson completed the weekend sweep, winning both the XFINITY and MENCS race. This is Larson’s 2nd career win, and Larson leaves California as the points leader.