Monday, March 24, 2014

Kyle Busch Wins Auto Club 400 from California

Originally written for CLNS Radio.
Kyle Busch won his second-straight spring California race by outrunning rookie Kyle Larson in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday.

Kyle Busch celebrates his victory on Sunday (Photo courtesy Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Busch ran near the front for most of the race, but he only led five laps on his way to the victory.  Busch said the fans won on Saturday during the Nationwide race, but he said Sunday’s race was even better.

“I think the fans won today too,” Busch told FOX Sports.  “What do you expect when you get a green-white-checkered and everyone has to get four tires?  That’s a Days of Thunder moment right there.”

Larson won the Nationwide race on Saturday, and he came close to sweeping the weekend by getting his first Cup Series victory.

“I thought we were in trouble there [restarting 9th], but somehow I ended up in second there behind Kyle down the backstretch,” Larson said.  “It did cross my mind that we might sweep the weekend.”

Some of the biggest news was announced before the race even began.  Denny Hamlin was replaced by Sam Hornish Jr. just 30 minutes before the green flag fell.  Hamlin was suffering from a sinus infection that made it hard for him to see, and he was taken to the hospital for observation.  Hornish was already in California standing by for Matt Kenseth, who’s wife is expecting a baby.

Kenseth won the pole for the race, but Brad Keselowski took the lead after starting on the front row for the third week in a row.

The first caution of the race came out for a flat tire on Kevin Harvick’s car.  It was the first of many tire problems during the race, as many teams were pushing their set-ups to their breaking points.

Kyle Busch jumped out to the lead when the race restarted, but Keselowski quickly got it back.  Keselowski led until Dale Earnhardt Jr. cut down a tire on lap 43.

Jimmie Johnson won the race off pit road, and he led the race for the first time of the day. 
On lap 56, Tony Stewart spun after losing control of his car coming off the corner. 

Under the caution, Keselowski stayed out to take the lead.  When the race restarted, Johnson and the rest of the field blew by Keselowski.  Keselowski almost fell to 40th before the caution came out for an accident between Aric Almirola and Brian Scott. 

When the race restarted on lap 75, Kenseth took the lead and held off Johnson until lap 86.  As soon as Johnson took the lead, the caution came out after Parker Kligerman hit the wall.

Kenseth led the field to the green flag on lap 91, but Johnson quickly blew around him to take the lead.  He led until Jeff Gordon took the lead on lap 109.

On lap 117, Greg Biffle slowed with a tire problem, but he was able to make it to pit road without incident.  His teammate Carl Edwards was not as lucky.  He spun with a flat tire to bring out another caution.

Kenseth led the field back to the green flag, but Johnson was once again able to get around the No. 20 for the lead.  He led until the caution came out for debris in Turn 3.

Johnson led the field back to the green flag on lap 159, and he and Kenseth raced hard for the lead until David Gilliland wrecked to bring out the caution on lap 168.

Johnson led the field back to the green flag, but Gordon began to catch the 48.  Johnson began to pull away once again, and it seemed like he would win another California race.  But he suffered his first tire problems of the day just seven laps from the finish.

Gordon took over the lead, and he was headed towards the white flag when Clint Bowyer cut down a tire and spun coming out of Turn 4 to bring out the final caution.

Landon Cassill stayed out under the caution, and he led the field back to the green flag.  Kurt Busch only took two tires under the caution, and he jumped around Cassill for the lead.  He raced side-by-side with Stewart for the lead until the white flag. 

Going into Turn 1, Kyle Busch got around both of them, and he brought rookie Kyle Larson with him.  Busch and Larson raced down the backstretch and into Turn 3, but Larson couldn’t get around Busch to get the victory.

Here are the unofficial results:

1. Kyle Busch
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kurt Busch
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Tony Stewart
6. Jamie McMurray
7. Brian Vickers
8. AJ Allmendinger
9. Paul Menard
10. Carl Edwards
11. Austin Dillon
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13. Jeff Gordon
14. Danica Patrick
15. Casey Mears
16. Clint Bowyer
17. Sam Hornish Jr.
18. Cole Whitt
19. Michael Annett
20. Ryan Newman
21. Reed Sorenson
22. Alex Bowman
23. Martin Truex Jr.
24. Jimmie Johnson
25. Landon Cassill
26. Brad Keselowski
27. David Ragan
28. Justin Allgaier
29. David Reutimann
30. Marcos Ambrose
31. Ryan Truex
32. Joe Nemechek
33. Travis Kvapil
34. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
35. Brian Scott
36. Kevin Harvick
37. Josh Wise
38. David Gilliland
39. Joey Logano
40. Greg Biffle
41. Kasey Kahne
42. Parker Kligerman
43. Aric Almirola

Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the famous Martinsville Speedway.  The STP 500 will be next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST, only on FOX.

Photo courtesy Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

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