Kyle Larson started from the pole while Brad Keselowski qualified third for the Auto Club 400. The final leg of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series early season west coast swing. The Team Penske driver, the highest qualified Ford, looked like a serious contender. However, a jumbled start damaged the rear of Keselowski’s car as the green flag waved. Four laps into the race, Keselowski spun bringing out the first caution of the race. With Logano starting 35th, Ford’s power duo was off to a slow start.
Kyle Larson won the first stage and never looked back. The dominant car all day won going away; despite, having to survive four caution flags in the final 20 laps. Amazingly, Keselowski’s crew repaired his car and he fought back for a second-place finish. Clint Bowyer turned in another fine effort for Stewart-Haas Racing taking third. Logano moved through the field and hung around the top 10 most of the race. The only Fusion to lead a lap, Logano finished fifth. Ryan Blaney finished in ninth. The Wood Brother’s Ford driver made it four Blue Ovals in the top 10.
Larson’s win locks up another playoff position, five races, five different winners. This leaves 11 spots still up for grabs. It’s possible only one or two playoff positions may be available to point qualifiers. Larson’s strong start to the season has him atop the point standings, 29 up on Chase Elliott. Keselowski sits fourth, Logano fifth; Ryan Blaney, Bowyer, and Kevin Harvick hold down seventh to ninth. Daytona 500 winner, Kurt Busch, is 14th. With five of the top ten spots occupied by Fords, optimism runs high in Dearborn. Interestingly 2016 Series Champion Jimmie Johnson sits outside of playoff position in 17th.
Next Sunday it’s back home to Martinsville Speedway. The oldest track on the NASCAR schedule celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. The Lasco Press will be there reporting live as the grandfather clock trophy is up for grabs. The first short-track race of the season will test driver’s patience. Something that has been in short supply already this season.