It was another wild finish with an uncertain winner until the final lap Sunday. It was an overtime finish with Kyle Larson winning from the pole, becoming only the second driver in 20 year history to accomplish the feat. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
From his first Auto Club Speedway pole, Kyle Larson led the field to the green from the outside; Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., joined Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano at the rear of the field for the start. Johnson and Logano both did not attempt qualifying Friday, while Earnhardt’s crew found a cut tire Sunday morning.
Hamlin bobbled in the start, stacking the field up behind. Brad Keselowski had heavy rear damage. Larson had a clear lead. Truex fell into second, Matt Kenseth was third, followed by Jamie McMurray and Hamlin. Logano was up to 17th
Keselowski spun on lap 3 after contact from Ty Dillon then Jimmie Johnson exiting turn 4 and the first caution came out. Keselowski ended up in the frontstretch grass but was able to continue.
Most of the leaders pitted. Larson was out first followed by Truex, Kenseth, Hamlin and McMurray. Paul Menard and David Ragan both stayed out.
Green came out on lap 8. Larson had the lead from Menard by Turn 2. Kenseth was second, Truex third by lap 9. Truex took second on the same lap from Kenseth who had only taken two tires on the stop.
Chase Elliott had moved to third by lap 11. McMurray and Ryan Blaney filled out the top five by lap 13.
Kenseth was 14th by lap 14; Logano was 8th. Earnhardt Jr. was 16th, Johnson 20th.
The lead was 1.3 seconds by lap 22 as Larson was starting to lap the back of the field.
Harvick slowed with a flat right rear tire on lap 24; there was no caution. He pitted and rejoined the field 38th one lap down.
Kyle Busch took fifth on lap 32, as Larson and Truex pitted setting off a round of green flag stops, Blaney joined them; Elliott and Kyle Busch pitted a lap later.
Truex had the lead after the stops; Larson was second followed by Elliott, followed by McMurray and Blaney.
Kyle Busch moved to fifth on lap 41. There were 23 cars on the lead lap. Larson was within a half a second of the lead by lap 45 as they passed last week’s winner Ryan Newman to put him a lap down.
Larson retook the lead as the crossed the line on lap 47.
Johnson was put a lap down on lap 53; there were 19 cars on the lead lap.
Keselowski went a lap down on lap 55. Truex was less than a half second behind leader Larson.
Caution two came out on lap 60. Top 10 Stage 1: Larson, Truex, Elliott, McMurray, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Logano, Blaney and Hamlin.
The leaders all pitted on lap 63. Truex was out first, McMurray was second followed by Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Larson. Blaney came out sixth, but left his pits with equipment and was penalized.
Green came back out on lap 68.
Truex had a clear lead by turn 1; McMurray fell into second, Kyle Busch third. Larson had third by the end of the lap; Elliott followed. Larson soon had second from McMurray; Elliott again followed and took third.
Michael McDowell lost a right front tire on lap 72, but the green stayed out.
By lap 81, Truex had a lead of 2.1 seconds, as Larson and Elliott were dueling for second. Elliott had second by 89. Green flag stops loomed.
Truex pitted on lap 90, Larson and many inside the top 10 followed.
After the cycle of stops, Truex was back in the lead by 5 seconds; Bowyer was second followed by Larson, Elliott, and Erik Jones.
Earnhardt had rebounded to 11th, Keselowski 13th.
Larson retook second on lap 99. The lead was up to 6 seconds.
Elliott caught Bowyer was looking for third on lap 105. He had third a lap later. Bowyer retook third on lap 115. Elliott was again looking for the spot on lap 117. Elliott took third back on lap 119
Caution came out on lap 120 for the end of Stage 2. Top 10: Truex, Larson, Elliott, Bowyer, Jones, McMurray, Kyle Busch, Logano, Hamlin, Keselowski. There were 17 cars on the lead lap.
The leaders all pitted. Truex was out first, followed by Larson, Elliott, Bowyer and McMurray. Earnhardt overshot his pits and lost several spots; he restarted 17th.
Green came back out on lap 127. Truex had a clear lead by turn 1, But Larson shot underneath and grabbed the lead. Behind Bowyer, Elliott and Kyle Busch followed. Behind them the top 10 were fighting for spots. Erik Jones was fifth by lap 133, Kyle Busch had fallen to 8th. Hamlin was sixth, McMurray seventh.
The lead was 2.5 seconds for Larson by lap 145.
Logano pitted from 15th on lap 150, perhaps trying a different pit strategy. Several others deeper in the field also stopped. Elliott pitted from third on lap 154. Bowyer pitted out of fourth on lap 155, Larson and Truex followed a lap later.
Johnson spun to avoid Truex and ended up nose first towards the pit wall to complete his stop.
Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon stayed out longer; Elliott was third, Larson fourth, Truex fifth.
Larson and Elliot battled for third. Larson was finally able to get the spot Truex was looking for fourth and got it.
Busch pitted on lap 162; Ty Dillon stayed out to lead. He pitted on lap 164. Larson had the lead again, 1.4 seconds over Truex. Truex soon caught Larson and by lap 166 the two were fighting for the lead.
Larson fended Truex off and soon the lead was back to just over a second. Johnson went another lap down on lap 177. Elliott pitted on the same lap.
Gray Gaulding hit the wall 180 and caution four came out. The leaders all pitted, as did Elliott again. Larson was out first followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Bowyer. After flawless pit stops all day, Truex had an issue when a crew member slipped coming around the car, and came out 7th.
The restart came on lap 184, 16 laps to go.
Larson and Hamlin were side by side until the exit of turn 2, when Hamlin slipped and fell back. Just behind, Kenseth spun after contact with Truex; he hit the inside wall hard and caution five flew.
The top 10 under the caution; Larson, Kyle Busch, Bowyer, Hamlin, McMurray, Jones, Keselowski, Truex, Kasey Kahne and Blaney.
The restart came on lap 189, 11 laps to go.
Larson had the lead by the exit of turn 2; Truex was the fast mover in fourth by the end of the lap. Hamlin took second as Kyle Busch slipped and feel back. Truex took third on lap 190; he was looking for second a lap later, when Corey LaJoie spun and caution six came out. LaJoie made no contact and continued.
Larson, Kyle Busch and others came in; Hamlin Truex and McMurray stayed out. Off pit road Larson was out first, followed by Kyle Busch, Blaney, Bowyer and Keselowski.
Up front it was Hamlin, Truex and McMurray; Larson lined up fourth.
The restart came on lap 195. Hamlin shot to the lead but by the exit of turn 3 it was Hamlin, Truex on the inside and Larson just behind.
Larson grabbed the lead with 4 to go as behind them in turn 2 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun after contact with Trevor Bayne, caution seven came out as Stenhouse was able to continue.
The caution set up an overtime finish. The top five: Larson, Hamlin, Keselowski, Truex and Blaney. Several cars deeper in the field pitted.
The top four on the restart were the same four who lined up the same way the race started.
On the restart, Larson took the lead, Truex went down but slipped; Keselowski, took second, Bowyer fell into third.
On the final lap, Larson had a half second lead. That lead only widened as Larson went onto victory. Keselowski finished second followed by Bowyer, Truex and Logano. McMurray was sixth, Daniel Suarez was seventh followed by Kyle Busch, Blaney and Chase Elliott. Hamlin had fallen out of the top 10 and on the final lap exiting turn 4 hit the wall hard, he finished 14th.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads back east to the shortest track on the circuit, Martinsville Speedway in Virginia for next Sunday’s STP 500. Live coverage will be on Fox at 2:00 p.m. ET.
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