Surprising and Not Surprising: Auto Club Speedway

by SM Staff On Tue, Mar. 28, 2017

During the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26, 2017 in Fontana, California. Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

Kyle Larson held off and pulled away from Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer on the final green-white-checkers restart to capture his first win of 2017, the second win of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) career and his first win at Auto Club Speedway. Larson started from the pole, won Stage 1 by leading 43 of the first 60 laps and overall led a race-high 110 of 202 laps. Larson retained the points lead and is 29 points ahead of second-place Chase Elliott in the series standings.

Not Surprising

Larson backed up his second place finishes with a win on Sunday.

“Our Target Chevy was amazing all day. We were able to lead a lot of laps today. Truex was better than us that second stage by quite a bit. We were able to get the jump on him the following restart and led pretty much the rest of the distance. I had to fight them off there after the green flag stops and that was a lot of fun,” Larson said.

Surprising

Teammate Jamie McMurray finished sixth, his best result this year and his third top 10 of the season.

“Our team and our whole organization has done an amazing job to get to the point that we are, he said. “It’s not one thing; it’s hundreds of small things. I’m so happy for all the guys at our shop that have worked hard.”

Not Surprising

Brad Keselowski battled back after overcoming damage to the rear of his car just after the green flag dropped and again after he was hit from behind by Jimmie Johnson on Lap 4, sending the No. 2 spinning through the infield grass. Keselowski finished second and captured his fourth-consecutive top-five finish this season.

“I don’t know if we had anything for Kyle and those guys,” he said after the race. “The Wurth Ford was torn up pretty bad. To get that kind of finish is respectable. Certainly, we want to win. I felt like we had a shot to do just that. It just didn’t come together. That’s the way it goes sometimes when you have a 36‑race season.”

Surprising

Martin Truex Jr. stayed out during the final caution flag. Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn decided not to pit instead of taking four new tires. “I felt like the 42 had everybody covered. It was just a matter of who got out front and got clean air. Towards the

“I felt like the 42 had everybody covered. It was just a matter of who got out front and got clean air. Towards the end, we had a little trouble in the pits and on another stop, we didn’t take tires, everybody else did and we were at a big disadvantage those last couple restarts,” Pearn admitted. Definitely happy to come out of here with a fourth with the tires we had on the car at the end. It was a good day and we have fast cars and we’ll continue to work on them.”

Not Surprising

Client Bowyer gets back on track and brings his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford home to a third place finish. “It was just a good weekend. I appreciate everybody’s hard work at Stewart-Haas Racing. Having these teammates and having this group behind you, the organization and the teamwork, it’s just amazing to be a part of it at this point in my career.”

“It was just a good weekend,” Bowyer said. “I appreciate everybody’s hard work at Stewart-Haas Racing. Having these teammates and having this group behind you, the organization and the teamwork, it’s just amazing to be a part of it at this point in my career.”

Surprising

The six-time Auto Club winner and the defending race winner Jimmie Johnson finished 21st and is still winless this season.

“Man, we definitely didn’t have the fastest car out there today. I think we used up all the good luck in the season finale last season,” said a disappointed Johnson. “We battled all day long to get back on the lead lap, but we have got some work to do. I’m looking forward to spending the week with my girls and heading to Martinsville next weekend with this Lowe’s team.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 on April 2 at 2 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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