For the second consecutive day, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson dueled for victory at Auto Club Speedway. But this time, it was Busch who emerged with the win in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway after a green-white-checkered finish.
Lining up sixth for the final restart but armed with four fresh tires, Busch quickly charged to third by the white flag and then got past Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch for the lead.
But Larson, who had lined up ninth on the restart, followed Busch past the two Stewart-Haas Racing teammates as well and tried to reel in “Rowdy” in the final two corners.
It was not to be however, as Busch held on to claim his first Cup win of the season and effectively earned his place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup later this fall. He also became the fifth different winner in as many races so far in 2014.
“What do you expect when you have a green-white-checkered finish and everybody’s gotta come down pit road and get four tires on,” Busch told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “That right there, that’s a ‘Days of Thunder’ thing right there – ‘What do you mean? There’s two laps to go! Everybody’s gonna pit, Cole.’ Unbelievable day.”
The lead-up to the G-W-C finish started with seven laps to go. Jimmie Johnson had held off a charge from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and appeared set for his sixth career win at Fontana.
But he then suffered a left-front tire failure on his car, and his misfortune was the start of multiple tire failures in the final laps that impacted Brad Keselowski (left rear), Marcos Ambrose (left rear), and finally, Clint Bowyer, whose tire issue caused him to spin out and trigger the caution with two laps left.
Gordon subsequently brought the leaders to the pits for fresh tires, but Kurt Busch was able to win the race off pit road with a two-tire stop. He lined up second behind Landon Cassill, who stayed out on old tires to inherit the lead.
Busch, Paul Menard and Tony Stewart were second, third and fourth for the restart, all of them having taken two tires. But fifth and sixth place in line – Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch – took four tires. Larson lined up in ninth.
Cassill quickly fell into the pack and Busch and Stewart were able to keep the top two spots at the start of the final lap – only for the two Kyles to take control and battle for the win themselves.
“I don’t know where everybody went but I ended up in second there and was right on [Busch] down the backstretch,” Larson said. “It went through my mind – ‘I might sweep the weekend here!'”
Nonetheless, it’s been a great two days for the 21-year-old phenom, who won yesterday’s Nationwide Series race by defeating both Busch and Kevin Harvick.
Kurt Busch wound up third at the stripe, followed by Kenseth in fourth, and Stewart in fifth. Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, A.J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards rounded out the Top 10 finishers.
As for Johnson, he finished 24th after leading a race-high 104 laps.
“We did an awesome job as a race team,” Johnson said. “We did everything we could to win the race today. Unfortunately, something out of our control let us down.
“But I had that feeling, I thought I was going to win at my home track once again, and it’s just a bummer it didn’t work out.”
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Auto Club 400 – Unofficial Results