NASCAR Cup: Kyle Larson completes Auto Club Speedway sweep
Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane at Auto Club Speedway after winning the Auto Club 400 on March 26, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
After three-straight second-place finishes and four runner-up showings in the last five races, dating back to the 2016 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, a visit to his home state of California resulted in Kyle Larson finally returning to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory lane on Sunday. Larson claimed his second-career Cup Series win in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana after leading a race-high 110 laps.
“Our Target Chevy was amazing all day,” Larson said. “We were able to lead a lot of laps today.”
The victory on Sunday also completed a weekend sweep for Larson, adding to his win the previous day in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in Fontana.
“I’m pretty excited, today, here with the sweep this weekend,” car owner Chip Ganassi said. “It’s all Kyle Larson this weekend, all Kyle Larson.”
Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski’s race on Sunday finished better than it started. He took runner-up honors after falling through the field at the start of the race and spinning in traffic to bring out the first caution on lap four. Clint Bowyer finished third, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five.
Larson won the first stage of the race, while Truex won the second. The two drivers ran in the first two positions throughout much of the race. Truex was second to Larson in the laps-led category, credited with leading 73 laps, with most of those coming in the second stage.
“All in all, it was a good day, and we ran up front and led laps,” Truex said. “The 42 (Larson) and I felt like we were the class of the field; he just got it done and we didn’t.”
Chase Elliott finished third to Larson and Truex in the first two stages of the race but was 10th at the finish after making a green-flag stop just before the rash of late-race cautions.
“We were just trying to do something different,” Elliott said. “I thought that was going to give us the best chance of winning. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) did, as well. We had a good NAPA Chevy, and we were on the same page. He made the right call. You can’t control when the caution comes out, so that’s just part of it.”
Keselowski’s early race caution was the only caution for an on-track incident until 21 laps remaining in the race’s scheduled 200-lap distance. But the yellow flag waved four times in those 21 laps, with the final caution of the race extending the race distance and extra two laps.
Larson gave up the race lead to pit for tires during a caution with nine laps remaining. He restarted fourth, because Truex, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray opted to stay out. When the race returned to green, Larson quickly got back up to second and took the lead just before the yellow flag waved for the final time on lap 197.
“I was staying as calm as I could be, but also frustrated at the same time,” Larson said. “It seems like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out, and I’ve got to fight people off on restarts.”
Truex was able to maintain a top-five spot over the course of the remaining laps, despite his older tires, and McMurray managed to stay in the top-10, finishing sixth. Hamlin, though, fell outside the top-10, finishing 14th.
Finishing seventh through ninth were Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney.