In the last race of the “NASCAR Goes West” tour, Kyle Larson was able to come away with a win in his home state of California at the Auto Club 400.
In an unusual series of events, some of the sport’s biggest names started towards the rear of the field when they couldn’t pass the laser inspection test.
Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell Penzoil Ford, started in 31st position after failing to make a qualifying run. Jimmie Johnson began the race in the 37th position after wrecking his No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet in practice and moving to a back-up car. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also started his day at the rear of the field after electing to change a cut-tire on his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet.
Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet won the pole on Friday in the Coors Light qualifying session and on Sunday, led the field to green. Denny Hamlin,driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota accompanied Larson on the front row.
Larson was able to maintain control of the lead as the green flag waved and just four laps into the race, Brad Keselowski spun out after Jimmie Johnson made contact with him on turn four. Johnson suffered minor damage. Keselowski’s damage was more extensive but he was able to walk away with a second-place finish.
No. 27 Paul Menard chose not to pit under the caution and led the field to green on the first restart of the day but stood no chance against Larson’s fresh tires.
With 35 laps remaining in the first stage, Kevin Harvick had a right-rear tire go down on his No. 4 Busch Beer Ford, sending him to the pits and putting him a lap down.
As pit stops cycled through, No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. managed to steal lead from Larson after his pit crew executed a perfect four-tire pit stop a half-second faster than the No. 42’s crew. With just 12 laps remaining in the first stage, Larson was able to track down the leader and he eventually won the stage over Truex Jr.
Stage One Winner: Kyle Larson
During the pit stops under caution, Larson surrendered the lead to Truex Jr. after he lost four spots overrunning his pit stall.
With 49 laps remaining in the second stage, No. 95 Michael McDowell got into the wall after he had a right-front tire blow out, sending him to the pits and putting him two laps down. The caution did not come out for the incident.
The No. 78 team of Martin Truex Jr. adjusted his tire pressure during his second pit stop which made the Bass Pro Shops Toyota substantially quicker.
As the second round of green-flag pit stops cycled through, Larson once again struggled getting onto pit road, locking up his tires and allowing Truex Jr. to increase his lead to six seconds.
Stage Two Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Truex Jr. left just 17 cars on the lead lap after setting a blistering pace in stage two.
The No. 78 led the field to green once again to begin the third and final stage followed by Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Truex Jr. chose to restart on the outside line but it didn’t seem to pay off for him as the No. 42 of Larson was able to get around him for the lead.
With 24 laps remaining in the race, No. 23 Gray Gaulding, driver of the SunFrog.com Toyota made contact with the wall which brought out the third caution of the race.
On the first lap after the restart, Truex Jr. got into the back of Matt Kenseth, sending his No. 20 Peak Performance Toyota into the backstretch wall and concluding his day.
On the fourth restart of the day, Larson had to battle Kyle Busch, one of the best drivers on the restart, but was once again too good on the high line.
With just seven laps to go, Corey Lajoie blew a tire and made contact with the outside wall, bringing out the fifth caution of the day.
With just five laps to go, Truex Jr. would start in first place on older tires but Larson’s new tires were just too much for him to handle. Just two laps into the run, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose in turn two and brought out the final caution of the race.
In NASCAR’s version of overtime, Larson lead the field to green for the final time and would walk away with the victory.
- Kyle Larson
- Brad Keselowski
- Clint Bowyer
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Joey Logano
- Jamie McMurray
- Daniel Suarez
- Kyle Busch
- Ryan Blaney
- Chase Elliott
P12: Erik Jones, P13: Kevin Harvick, P14: Denny Hamlin, P15: Ryan Newman, P16: Dale Earnhardt Jr. P20: Kasey Kahne, P21: Jimmie Johnson, P24: Kurt Busch, P26: Danica Patrick, P36: Matt Kenseth