Sunday, March 24, 2013

Busch Wins Wild Auto Club 400

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Last week, Denny Hamlin wrecked Joey Logano after Logano cut him off.  Logano vowed to get Hamlin back.  This week, Hamlin and Logano were racing for the lead when they got together coming out of the final corner, wrecking themselves and allowing Kyle Busch to take the victory.

Kyle Busch bows to the crowd after his victory (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin won the pole for the Auto Club 400, and he led the field to the green flag.  Hamlin chose to start on the outside, and he was passed going down the backstretch by Matt Kenseth for the lead.  On lap 11, Kyle Busch got around his teammate to take the lead.  Busch led his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates until the caution came out on lap 29 for a spin by David Stremme.  The leaders brought their cars down pit road, and Busch won the race off pit road.

Hamlin and Busch race for the lead on a restart. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The race restarted on lap 34, and the field went four-wide.  Busch was able to stay ahead of Hamlin to take the lead.  On lap 37, Timmy Hill blew an engine, bringing out the second caution.  After he blew an engine, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, and Clint Bowyer got into the wall after driving through the oil.  All of them had to bring their cars down pit road to fix the damage.

The race restarted on lap 43, and Joey Logano pushed Busch into Turn 1.  Logano tried to get under Busch, but they stayed side-by-side for a lap before Logano was able to take the lead.  Logano hit pit road on lap 68, and that handed the lead to Kyle Busch.  Busch pitted one lap later.  Tony Stewart was the leader until he pitted on lap 76, and that handed the lead back to Kyle Busch.  During the pit stops, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick were caught speeding, and they had to serve pass-through penalties. 

The third caution of the day came out for debris on lap 90.  Busch brought the field down pit road, and this time Denny Hamlin won the race off pit road. 

The race restarted on lap 96, and Busch and Hamlin raced side-by-side, and Busch was able to take the lead coming out of Turn 4.  On lap 117, the fourth caution came out for Joe Nemechek, who hit the wall coming out of Turn 2.  Busch led the field down pit road again, and he was able to beat Hamlin out of the pits. 

Busch races with Logano for the lead (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
The race restarted on lap 121, and he was able to beat Busch through the first turn to take the lead.  The fifth caution came out on lap 130, when Marcos Ambrose cut down a left-rear tire.  The field came down pit road, and Tony Stewart beat Clint Bowyer off pit road after they both took two tires. 

Stewart led the field back to the green flag on lap 136, and he was able to hold off Clint Bowyer for the lead.  Busch had to restart ninth, but within one lap he quickly worked his way up to third.  He and Kevin Harvick raced side-by-side for a few laps, allowing Stewart to pull out front.  Busch finally got around Harvick for second and set his sights on Stewart.

Busch finally passed Stewart on lap 145, and Harvick followed him to take second.  On lap 162, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin came down pit road to make their final green-flag pit stops.  Busch pitted with 34 laps to go, and he remained the leader after the stops had cycled around.  On lap 169, Marcos Ambrose blew another left-rear tire, bringing out the sixth caution. 

The race restarted on lap 174, and Busch was able to beat Harvick into Turn 1 after Harvick didn't get going on the restart.  On lap 176, the seventh caution came out for a spin by Mark Martin.  Martin broke a trackbar coming out of Turn 2, and he turned down in front of David Gilliland.  Under the caution, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin brought their cars down pit road.

The race restarted on lap 180, and Busch was able to stay ahead of Logano and Stewart.  On lap 185 Clint Bowyer blew an engine and then spun in his own oil, bringing out the eighth caution.  Under the caution, Hamlin began complaining about his car overheating, with the water temperatures going above 300 degrees.
The race restarted with just 11 laps to go, and Busch was passed by the first few cars, but he was able to fight back and get around Logano for the lead.  Kurt Busch started fighting Logano for second, and then Carl Edwards and Hamlin also joined the fight.  Logano was able to get underneath Busch with seven laps to go, but Busch was able to hold him off.

Coming out of Turn 4, Hamlin got alongside Busch, but then Logano got into the back of Hamlin to take the lead.  With two laps to go, Hamlin gave Logano a bump coming out of Turn 4.  Hamlin and Logano raced side-by-side down the backstretch.  Going into Turn 3, Logano got loose and got into Hamlin.  They both got extremely loose, and that allowed Busch to get around to take the win.  Logano got into the wall, and Hamlin was sent flying into the inside wall.  Hamlin's car hit the inside wall hard, and once he got out of the car he was attended to by medical personnel.  Hamlin was put onto a spine board and loaded into an ambulance.

Hamlin's car comes to a rest after a hard hit with the wall (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Hamlin was taken to the infield care center, where he was evaluated by track physicians.  He was awake and alert, but they airlifted him to the nearest hospital as a precaution.

Kyle Busch won the race, and was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is now the Sprint Cup Series points leader.  Joey Logano finished third, and was followed by Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, and Greg Biffle.  Matt Kenseth finished seventh.  Paul Menard finished eighth.  Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman rounded out the Top 10.  Jeff Gordon finished 11th, and Jimmie Johnson finished 12th.  Tony Stewart finished 22nd after running up front late in the race.  Brad Keselowski finished 23rd.  Denny Hamlin finished 25th after his accident, and Danica Patrick finished 26th.  Clint Bowyer finished 35th after blowing his engine late in the race.  Mark Martin returned to the track, and finished 37th.  Brian Vickers will be in the No. 55 car at Martinsville.

This week, Joey Logano once again showed everyone that he was not afraid to make waves.  After a questionable block on the final restart, Tony Stewart got into a fight with Logano on pit road after the race.  For the second week in a row, the winner was overshadowed by an on- and off-track altercation involving Joey Logano.  Kyle Busch won the Auto Club 400 after running very strong the past few weeks.  The next race will be in two weeks.  The STP Gas Booster 500 from Martinsville Speedway can be seen April 7th at 1:00 p.m. EST, only on FOX.

Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

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