How the Auto Club 400 played out Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.:
WINNER: Kyle Busch made history in Southern California, overcoming a speeding penalty to earn his 200th win in NASCAR’s top three national series (Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, Gander Outdoors Truck Series).
Busch joined NASCAR Hall-of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty as the only drivers with 200 wins, though Petty earned all his victories in the Cup Series.
“Feels just like No. 1 — feels just like yesterday,” Busch said of the milestone. “To win 200, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Busch dominated the most of the race at the 2-mile track and swept all three stages. But his victory seemed in doubt during the third segment when the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was penalized for speeding on pit road following Stage 2.
He restarted at the tail end of the lead-lap cars but methodically worked his way through the field, assuming the lead after other cars hit pit road for green-flag pit stops.
When Bubba Wallace brought out the caution with less than 40 laps remaining, Busch got the lucky break he needed — being able to pit under caution along with the rest of the leaders. Busch restarted second and retook the lead less than 10 laps later.
“That was such an awesome race car,” said Busch of his green No. 18 Toyota Camry. “I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California. You know, it takes green to get in victory lane today — today’s St. Patrick’s Day.
Joey Logano finished second, Brad Keselowski third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth. Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10.
BUSCH’S LUCKY BREAK: Bubba Wallace brought out the caution with 37 laps to go when his left front tire explodes spreading debris all over the track. Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were the only cars that did not make green-flag pit stops so were riding up front when the yellow flew. Busch led a group of cars down pit road — including many leaders who had just made green-flag stops — but Team Penske’s Blaney chose not to pit and assumed the lead.
CAUGHT SPEEDING: Kyle Busch was first out of the pits after the caution following Stage 2, but was penalized for speeding on exit. Busch, who would have started Stage 3 first, was forced to restart at the tail end of the longest line. Hamlin was also penalized for speeding on pit road and restarted at the rear.
STAGE 2: Kyle Busch took the second segment to sweep the first two stages for third time in his Cup career. Busch led 100 of the first 120 laps of the race. Team Penske drivers took the next three slots with Keselowski, Blaney and Logano finishing second through fourth. Almirola, Harvick, Erik Jones, Busch, Hamlin and Chase Elliott rounded out the top 10.
STAGE 1: The opening stage ended under caution when Stenhouse spins between Turn 1 and Turn 2 following a restart. Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. also sustained damage trying to avoid Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford.
Kyle Busch, seeking his 200th combined win in NASCAR national series races, won the segment for his third playoff point and third stage win of the season. Logano took second, followed by Hamlin, Harvick and Almirola. Daniel Suarez, Jones, Jimmie Johnson, Blaney and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top 10.
FIRST YELLOW: Pole-sitter Austin Dillon brought out the first caution of the day with five laps remaining in the opening stage when he cut his right rear tire. Dillon had a rough 24 hours already when he began to feel ill Saturday night. He was given a couple of bags of IV Sunday morning before the race, but the Richard Childress Racing driver was able to start the race. Saturday’s Xfinity Series winner Cole Custer was on stand-by to drive for Dillon if he could not compet the race.
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