RAPID REACTION: Second No More
Auto Club Speedway has become known for its late race restarts and unpredictable finishes in recent years. Sunday was no different as it came down to who wanted it most during an Overtime restart.
Kyle Larson refused to settle for anything but a victory after dominating the Auto Club 400. While late restarts haven’t been friendly to the No. 42 car in the past, fresh tires and determination earned Larson a home-state victory.
Second No More
Larson entered Sunday as the most dominant driver through the first four races of 2017. Three consecutive runner-up finishes placed him atop the points standings and hungry for that elusive victory.
He carried plenty of momentum into the weekend and only added to it by capturing the pole for the race and winning Saturday’s XFINITY Series event.
The 24-year-old has never performed better in his career and his impressive run that led to his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory attests to his strength behind the wheel.
Unlike last weekend at Phoenix Raceway when Ryan Newman opted not to pit under the final caution and captured the victory, a late pit stop proved to be the winning move on Sunday.
Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Jamie McMurray all stayed on track when the rest of the field took on fresh tires under the second to last caution. The three competitors held on briefly following the restart but were ultimately unable to challenge Larson for the win.
Truex Jr. ended up fourth, McMurray sixth, and Hamlin fell back to 14th after making contact with the wall coming off the final corner.
Brad Keselowski looked to be in for a long day after a stack up at the start of the race cut his tire down, and he spun to bring out the first caution on Lap 4.
However, the No. 2 team battled back throughout the day and found themselves in contention for the victory on the final restart. Keselowski restarted third and dived low beneath Hamlin entering Turn 1 and then exited Turn 2 battling side-by-side with Bowyer for second place.
He eventually cleared Bowyer but didn’t have enough time to challenge Larson as the No. 42 car pulled away, and Keselowski came home in the runner-up position, capping off an impressive afternoon.
Clint Bowyer made his presence known on Sunday as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver remained up front throughout the Auto Club 400 and finished third.
The third-place result was Bowyer’s best finish since placing third at Sonoma Raceway in 2015 during his final season driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. It was also his first top-five finish in 52 starts.
Now Bowyer will look to improve this result by two positions and break his winless drought that dates back over four years to October 2012 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz
EMAIL JASON AT firstname.lastname@example.org
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.