Martin Truex Jr. Wins the Auto Club 400

Kevin Harvick denied his 4th win in a row after an accident with Kyle Larson damages his race car.

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series completes its Western swing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. The Auto Club 400 features Kevin Harvick(4) racing for his fourth Cup Series win in a row. The big news out of Fontana, California this weekend concerned the 13 cars that failed inspection. The penalty? None of the drivers were allowed to qualify and must start at the rear of the field.

All four entries from Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman(88), William Byron(24), Chase Elliott(9), and Jimmie Johnson(48) were found to be illegal. For Elliott, it was the second penalty in a week. After last weeks race at ISM Speedway, Elliott’s team was docked 25 points for issues with the rear suspension.

AJ Allmendinger(47), Aric Almirola(10), Clint Bowyer(14), Ross Chastain(15), Denny Hamlin(11), Timmy Hill(51), Kasey Kahne(95), Daniel Suarez(19), and Cole Whitt(72) were all guilty of inspection infractions.

Martin Truex Jr.(78) won the pole with Kyle Busch(18) starting next to him on the front row. Harvick qualified 10th after a small bobble during pole qualifying cost him precious time. His practice times still indicated he was the car to beat.

Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill / Getty Images

Harvick steadily moved towards the front during the first 60 lap Stage. However, with 23 laps to go in Stage One, he battled Kyle Larson(42) out of turn two. Larson drove up to Harvick’s left rear quarter-panel causing the 4 car to get aero loose. Harvick managed to straighten the car out. As Larson passed on the inside Harvick moved down, apparently to show his displeasure with the tight racing. The two cars made contact and Harvick again got loose.

Photo Credit NASCAR.com

Unable to save the car this time, Harvick smacked the backstretch wall hard with the right front. The car spun around and hit the wall again with the rear bumper. Effectively ending any chance at the four-peat. After repairs, he returned to the track two laps down and lost another lap due to being slowed by the damage the car experienced. Larson continued with minor sheet metal damage his crew was able to repair.

Truex won Stage 1 for his first Stage win of the year.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
78 Truex Jr. 10
18 Kyle Busch 9
22 Logano* 8
2 Keselowski* 7
48 Johnson 6
42 Larson 5
41 Kurt Busch* 4
20 Erik Jones 3
14 Bowyer* 2
11 Hamlin 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

Stage 2

On the restart to begin Stage 2, Truex and Joey Logano(22) lined up at the front after quick pit work got them back on the track ahead of the rest of the field. Truex spun his tires as the green flag flew and Logano took the lead. Despite Harvick’s misfortune, the Fords continue their early season strength. Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske have all seven of their cars in playoff position after the first four races of the year.

Truex ultimately regained the lead and held it until Trevor Bayne(6) cut a tire and hit the wall with 12 laps to go in Stage 2. Paul Menard(21) also brushed the wall and the pair of slow cars on the track brought out the caution. After pit stops Truex exited pit road first followed by Kyle Busch. The restart leading to the end of Stage 2 mirrored the front row at the start of the race. With the same result at Truex went to the lead.

Photo Credit NASCAR.com

Truex held on for the Stage win. He is the only driver to have won both Stages and gone on to win the race. Accomplishing the feat twice in 2017. Will Fontana mark the beginning of the Furniture Row Racing’s team run to another title?

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
78 Truex Jr. 10
2 Keselowski* 9
18 Kyle Busch 8
11 Hamlin 7
20 Jones 6
22 Logano* 5
48 Johnson 4
42 Larson 3
14 Bowyer* 2
24 Byron 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

With 80 laps making up the final stage drivers are focused on putting themselves in a position to win. Especially Kyle Busch(18). Running near the front all afternoon, Busch struggled with the handling. His team kept adjusting the car and he drove to the lead early in the final stage.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images

Kyle Busch fought off several challenges from Truex until finally surrendering the lead with 39 laps to go. Both drivers pitted with 37 to go and Busch retook the lead with the faster pit stop. With 32 laps to go Kyle Busch slipped slightly exiting turn 2 allowing Truex to resume the lead. It was reported that during Busch’s pit stop his crew made a chassis adjustment to tighten the car up. Unfortunately, they turned the jack screw the wrong way resulting in loosening up the rear end of the 18 car.

The Finish

Truex moved out to a seven-second lead over Kyle Busch. Larson caught Busch and passed him for second place. But, he could not make a run on Truex. At the checkered flag, Truex was 11.65 seconds up over second place Larson. Kyle Busch took third, Keselowski, and Logano rounded out the top five. Harvick finished 35th out of 37 cars, nine laps down. The win pushed Truex to the lead in the Championship point standings. He is the third driver to lock down a playoff spot this year.

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge / Getty Images

 

 

Results of the 2018 Auto Club 400

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 78 Martin Truex Jr. 200
2 42 Kyle Larson 11.685 200
3 18 Kyle Busch 12.185 200
4 2 Brad Keselowski 18.611 200
5 22 Joey Logano 18.769 200
6 11 Denny Hamlin 19.307 200
7 20 Erik Jones 30.752 200
8 12 Ryan Blaney 31.648 200
9 48 Jimmie Johnson 33.46 200
10 3 Austin Dillon 39.703 200
11 14 Clint Bowyer -1 199
12 10 Aric Almirola -1 199
13 88 Alex Bowman -1 199
14 41 Kurt Busch -1 199
15 24 William Byron -1 199
16 9 Chase Elliott -1 199
17 1 Jamie McMurray -1 199
18 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 199
19 21 Paul Menard -1 199
20 43 Darrell Wallace Jr. -1 199
21 31 Ryan Newman -1 199
22 47 AJ Allmendinger -1 199
23 19 Daniel Suarez -1 199
24 95 Kasey Kahne -1 199
25 38 David Ragan -1 199
26 34 Michael McDowell -1 199
27 13 Ty Dillon -2 198
28 72 Cole Whitt -2 198
29 15 Ross Chastain -2 198
30 37 Chris Buescher -2 197
31 32 Matt DiBenedetto -4 196
32 23 Gray Gaulding -6 194
33 51 Timmy Hill -7 193
34 55 Reed Sorenson -7 193
35 4 Kevin Harvick -9 191
36 0 Jeffrey Earnhardt -10 189
37 6 Trevor Bayne -92 108

 

Points/Playoff Standings

Position Driver Points Wins
1 Kevin Harvick 170 3
2 Martin Truex Jr. 216 1
3 Austin Dillon 141 1
4 Kyle Busch 207 0
5 Joey Logano 197 0
6 Brad Keselowski 183 0
7 Ryan Blaney 181 0
8 Denny Hamlin 176 0
9 Kyle Larson 174 0
10 Clint Bowyer 155 0
11 Aric Almirola 148 0
12 Kurt Busch 144 0
13 Erik Jones 132 0
14 Ryan Newman 117 0
15 Paul Menard 115 0
16 Alex Bowman 115 0
Playoff Cut Line
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 107 0
18 Jimmie Johnson 97 0
19 Darrell Wallace Jr. 94 0
20 William Byron 91 0

*Ford Fusion Drivers