The NASCAR Auto Club 400 as it happened

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 18: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota, leads the field to green to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 18, 2018 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Martin Truex Jr. was the dominate force in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 Sunday. Here’s how it all went down at Auto Club Speedway:

From his second consecutive pole of the season and his first at Auto Club Speedway, Truex led the field to the green from the outside; Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and Austin Dillon followed in the top five.

Truex had the lead by the exit of Turn 1; Kyle Busch fell in behind. Jones, Joey Logano and Kurt Busch were the top five.

Kyle Larson was in fifth by lap 3.

After starting 10, Kevin Harvick was sixth by lap 12; Larson got by Logano on the same lap.

Kyle Busch had stayed close to Truex and took the lead on lap 12.

Harvick took fifth on lap 13.

Larson took third from Jones on lap 16. Harvick took fourth on lap 19.

Busch had a lead of 1.2 seconds by lap 25.

Logano pitted from sixth on lap 26.

Harvick took third on lap 27; others deeper in the field were pitting.

Harvick pitted on lap 28 as did Truex, Jones and the rest of the leaders.

Kyle Busch pitted as the others were finishing up.

After the stops cycled through Kyle Busch was again in the lead; Truex, Logano, Harvick and Larson followed.

Truex was able to get by and re-take the lead on lap 33.

Larson and Harvick were dueling for third by lap 34.

While fighting for the spot on lap 37 Larson on the inside exiting turn 2; Harvick came down and got into Larson; Harvick was sent back up into the wall, while Larson was able to continue. The first caution of the day came out.  Replays showed Harvick maybe making a move down to tap Larson after Larson got him loose in the turn.

The leaders pitted:  Truex was out first followed by Kyle Busch, Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Ryan Blaney.

Harvick tried to continue but had heavy damage.

The green came out to start lap 42.

Truex took the lead and Keselowski and Busch dueled for second.  Busch had second by the end of the lap.  Austin Dillon took fifth on lap 43.

Harvick was 36th two laps down.

Larson who restarted 20th was up to 14th by lap 48.  Keselowski and Logano were fighting for 3rd, behind Penske teammate Blaney tagged the wall but continued.  Blaney pitted a lap later.

Truex had a 2.7 second lead by lap 50, 10 to go in Stage 1.  Johnson was fifth.

Top 10 Stage 1: Truex, Kyle Busch, Logano, Keselowski, Johnson, Larson, Kurt Busch, Jones, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin; the second caution of the day came out to end the stage.  There were 28 cars on the lead lap. It was the first stage win for Truex of 2018.

The leaders pitted on lap 62: Logano was out first followed by Truex, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Hamlin.

Green came out to stat lap 67.  Logano shot to the lead, the field was stacked up behind.  By the end of the lap Kyle Busch was second, Truex was third followed by Keselowski, Johnson and Larson.

Larson took fifth from Johnson at the end of lap 68. Truex took second on lap 69 and was soon looking for the lead.

Truex took the lead on lap 73.

Larson took fourth from Keselowski on lap 75.

The lead for Truex was 2.8 seconds by lap 79.

Kyle Busch was looking for second from Logano on lap 82 and was able to get the spot.  The lead was 3.6 seconds.

Larson pitted on lap 87 reporting a vibration. Others deeper in the field began to follow.

Logano pitted on lap 89. Truex pitted on lap 90.

Kyle Busch stayed out a few laps and finally pitted on lap 93. Truex was back in the lead; Larson, Logano, Hamlin and Keselowski were behind.

Kyle Busch was fourth by lap 96. The lead for Truex was 3.6 seconds.

Busch was second by lap 104.

Trevor Bayne hit the wall in turn 4 on lap 109 and the third caution of the day waved.

The leaders pitted; Truex was out first followed by Kyle Busch, Logano, Keselowski and Hamlin.

Green came out to start lap 113; seven laps to go in Stage 2.

Truex had a slight lead out of turn 2; Keselowski took second, Kyle Busch third; Jones was fourth.  Hamlin slid into fifth.

Hamlin took fourth on lap 116.

Top 10 Stage 2: Truex, Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Jones, Logano, Johnson, Larson, Bowyer, William Byron.  Caution four came out to send the stage.

The leaders pitted on lap 122; Kyle Busch was out first followed by Truex, Keselowski, Logano and Hamlin. Larson pitted a second time reporting another vibration.

Green came out to start lap 127; Kyle Busch had the lead by the exit of turn 2; it was a mad scramble behind.  Truex emerged with the lead, Keselowski was third; Logano and Jones were just behind.

David Ragan hit the wall then had a tire go down in turn 2 and caution five came out on lap 129.

The leaders pitted.  William Byron with only two tires was out first, followed by Kyle Busch, Logano, Truex, Jones and Keselowski.

Kasey Kahne stayed out and led when the green waved to start lap 132. Byron had the lead by the exit of turn 2, but Kyle Busch was soon there and took the lead.  Keselowski and Logano were soon behind Byron with Keselowski getting the spot on lap 134; Truex was soon looking for third from Logano.  Jones had fifth from Jones by lap 136; Kahne had fallen to 20th.

Larson had recovered from 20th to sixth by lap 138.

Truex took third a lap later.

Larson took fifth on lap 141. He took fourth on lap 147. The lead for Kyle Busch was 1.7 seconds over Truex.

Truex was looing for the lead by lap 158 the gap was less than half a second; cars deeper in the field were pitting.

Truex and Busch were side by side for several laps; Busch high, Truex low.

Truex finally had the lead on lap 161. Behind it was Keselowski, Larson and Hamlin.

Both leaders pitted on lap 163. Larson followed.

Busch was able to get out just ahead of Truex; Larson and Keselowski were just behind.

Hamlin was the last to pit on lap 165, and Kyle Busch was back in the lead.  Larson was third 2.3 seconds behind.

In traffic, Truex was able to catch Busch and the two were side by side again on lap 167.

Busch nearly lost it exiting turn 2 on the next lap and Truex shot by for the lead. The team had reported to Busch that during the stop they had made an adjustment but done so the wrong way; he was told to adjust the track bar in the car.

The lead for Truex was 1.3 seconds by lap 171.

With 25 to go the lead was 3.1 seconds and growing.

Larson was looking for second by lap 18; 20 to go.  He nearly had the spot exiting turn 4 but ran out of room; Larson recovered and took second exiting turn 2 on lap 182. The lead was 5.9 seconds.

The lead was 6.5 seconds with 10 to go.  There were 13 cars on the lead lap.

With five to go the lead was 8.6 seconds and 11 cars on the lead lap.

The only drama in the final laps was a battle between Penske teammates Keselowski and Logano for fourth; Hamlin charged in on the last lap to join the fray.

Hamlin fell short as Truex crossed the line 11.685 seconds ahead of Larson. Kyle Busch was third, Keselowski fourth with Logano fifth.

Hamlin held on for sixth, Jones seventh with Ryan Blaney, Johnson and Austin Dillon rounding out the top 10 and the last car on the lead lap.

NASCAR heads back to the east coast for next Sunday’s STP 400 at Martinsville Speedway.  Live coverage will be on Fox Sports 1 starting at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.