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Larson Wins Fontana; Ends Runner-Up Streak

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 26 2017

Kyle Larson will not race at Martinsville. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

RacinToday.com

Kyle Larson survived a slew of late-race restarts to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. and in doing so, ended a three-race stretch where he had finished as runner-up.

The victory for the 24-year-old Chip Ganassi Racing driver was the second of his career and helped him pad his series points lead and came in overtime.

“I was staying as calm as I could be, but also frustrated at the same time,” he said of the final, caution-dotted laps of the race. “It seems like every time I’d get to the lead at one of these things, the caution comes out and I got to fight people off on restarts.”

Brad Keselowski of Team Penske was second. .8 seconds behind.

Third was Clint Bowyer, giving him his best finish since joining Stewart Haas Racing at the beginning of the season.

“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.  Thanks to Rush Truck Centers for making this possible. Gene Haas and Tony Stewart for giving me this opportunity.  It means a lot to me to be in this 14.  I have a lot of fun with these guys.

Fourth was Martin Truex Jr., who challenge for the lead much of the day.

“We were able to lead a lot of laps,” Larson sai, “but Truex was better than us in the second stage by quite a bit but we were able to get the jump on him on the following restart (to start the final stage) and led pretty much the rest of the distance.”

In that third and final stage of the race, drivers started to pit  under green with 48 laps to go, committing them to another stop before the end.

Leader Larson and second-place Truex came in with 45 to go.

When the pitting cycled through with 36 laps to go, Larson had the lead while Truex was second and Elliott third.

Larson’s stretched his lead out to over a second but he couldn’t shake Truex.

Elliott, several second back opted to pit with 23 laps to go. Two laps later, the caution flag waved and Elliott’s strategy went wrong.

Larson came out first, Hamlin second and Kyle Busch third. Truex dropped five spots – from second to seventh.

The race restarted with 16 laps to go. Larson and Hamlin went side-by-side for a half lap but then, Larson broke free.

Behind them, Truex made contact with Matt Kenseth. Kenseth shot across the track and slammed hard into the inside wall. And, out came the yellow.

On the ensuing restart, which came with 11 laps to go, Larson led, Busch was next to him and Bowyer and Hamlin were behind.

Larson emerged from Turn 2 with the lead and began to stretch it. But with nine to go, Corey Lajoie spun and out came the fifth caution.

Leader Larson and most of the field came in and took four tires while second-place Hamlin and third-place Truex stayed out.

With four laps to go, Larson used those tires to move to the lead past Hamlin. Just as he did, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Trevor Bayne crashed to bring out yet another yellow.

Larson restarted flawlessly in OT and went on to get the victory.

Pole-sitter Larson won the first stage of the race. Truex easily won the second stage.

(This story will be updated shortly)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – Auto Club 400\\

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, California
Sunday, March 26, 2017

  1. (1) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 202.
  2. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 202.
  3. (17) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 202.
  4. (4) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 202.
  5. (35) Joey Logano, Ford, 202.
  6. (8) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 202.
  7. (10) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 202.
  8. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 202.
  9. (19) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 202.
  10. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 202.
  11. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 202.
  12. (14) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 202.
  13. (7) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 202.
  14. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 202.
  15. (5) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 202.
  16. (18) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 202.
  17. (24) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 202.
  18. (21) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 202.
  19. (31) Aric Almirola, Ford, 202.
  20. (12) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 202.
  21. (37) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 202.
  22. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 202.
  23. (36) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 202.
  24. (15) Kurt Busch, Ford, 201.
  25. (20) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 201.
  26. (22) Danica Patrick, Ford, 200.
  27. (26) Landon Cassill, Ford, 200.
  28. (23) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 200.
  29. (38) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 200.
  30. (30) * Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, 200.
  31. (27) David Ragan, Ford, 199.
  32. (28) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 199.
  33. (25) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 198.
  34. (29) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 197.
  35. (34) * Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 193.
  36. (6) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, Accident, 184.
  37. (39) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, Accident, 173.
  38. (33) * Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 117.
  39. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Engine, 99.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  136.359 mph.

Time of Race:  02 Hrs, 57 Mins, 46 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.779 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 29 laps.

Lead Changes:  17 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-5; P. Menard 6-7; K. Larson 8-32; C. Elliott 33-34; J. Logano 35; M. Truex Jr. 36-47; K. Larson 48-63; M. Truex Jr. 64-90; C. Elliott 91-92; M. Truex Jr. 93-122; K. Larson 123; M. Truex Jr. 124-127; K. Larson 128-155; Kyle Busch 156-162; T. Dillon # 163; K. Larson 164-192; D. Hamlin 193-196; K. Larson 197-202.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Larson 7 times for 110 laps; M. Truex Jr. 4 times for 73 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 7 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 4 laps; C. Elliott 2 times for 4 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 2 laps; T. Dillon # 1 time for 1 lap; J. Logano 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 42,78,24,1,18,14,22,77,21,11

Stage #2 Top Ten: 78,42,24,14,77,1,18,22,11,2

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, March 26 2017
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