Kyle Busch both dominated and had to come from behind to pick up his 200th national NASCAR series win Sunday afternoon.
Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry was the class of the field in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400. After taking the lead for the first time on Lap 13, Busch went on to sweep both Stage 1 and Stage 2 (for his third and fourth stage wins of the season) and seemed mostly untouchable.
Then came a speeding penalty at the start of the final stage.
Busch restarted 18th and steadily climbed back into contention — inside the top 10 on Lap 136; inside the top five before Lap 160; and back into the race lead when green flag pit stops began with 40 laps to go.
When the caution flew for debris with 35 laps to go, Busch made his own pit stop and restarted in second, on the front row.
Falling back on the restart, Busch charged back again, from third just past the start/finish line into the lead off Turn 2, slicing past Joey Logano’s Team Penske Ford Mustang.
Busch then went unchallenged over the final 26 laps to the checkered flag, claiming his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series victory and the 53rd of his career. The 33-year-old also hit the 200 win mark across all three NASCAR national series after finishing second in the Saturday afternoon Xfinity Series race.
He led 134 of 200 laps.
“It feels just like number one, it feels just like yesterday,” said Busch, who won his first career Cup Series race at Fontana in 2005 and now has four victories at the track.
“Man, that was such an awesome race car. I mean, dang. This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today, and I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway. Just awesome. Just awesome. To win 200 – it means a lot to me; it means a lot to all my guys — everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, TRD. It’s an amazing opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs, and I cherish every minute of it and love it always.
“Just wish we can keep it going. Keep it going like this, running strong, running well, and winning these races.”
Logano held on for a second-place finish with fellow Ford drivers Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Blaney third, fourth and fifth.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch picked up another top-10 finish as he crossed the finish line sixth, the first of the Chevy Camaro drivers.
Completing the top 10 were Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, and Austin Dillon.
Hamlin started sixth in his JGR Toyota but led the first lap after making an exciting three-wide move off Turn 4 to pass Harvick and Dillon.
Polewinner Dillon completed the race after starting the day feeling ill and having Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer on standby.
Truex was denied a second consecutive Fontana victory after picking up damage near the end of Stage 1. When Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose in Turns 1 and 2 and began to slide up the track, Truex was run into by Kyle Larson, damaging his right rear quarter panel which needed multiple pit stops to repair.
Larson finished 12th and Stenhouse 14th.
Clint Bowyer was the only driver out of the race, the No. 14 Ford suffering a mechanical issue.
The Auto Club 400 saw 17 lead changes among eight drivers and four cautions.