NASCAR’s West Coast Swing wrapped up Sunday in California for the Auto Club 400. The 200-lap race is difficult on the cars and drivers as the weathered, bumpy track eats up tires and gives drivers a rough ride on race day. Coming off his win at ISM Raceway, Kyle Busch was still hot on Sunday afternoon under sunny skies at Auto Club Speedway.
Austin Dillon started on the pole, but Denny Hamlin was quick to the point as he led the first lap of the race. Shortly after, Aric Almirola received a big push from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. down the back stretch, but Almirola passed up everyone and shot out to the lead. Kyle Busch sniffed him and took over the race lead right before the green flag pit stops on lap 27. With only five laps left in the stage, Dillion brought out the caution with a right-side tire falling flat. The leaders made pit stops and Hamlin won the race off pit road. However, Busch had a great restart and passed Hamlin coming out of turn two. As this was unfolding, Stenhouse Jr. spun around and the stage ended under caution with Kyle Busch winning the first stage.
Kyle Busch came out of the stage break as the leader and quickly raced out to a commanding lead. Green flag stops occurred midway through the stage on lap 93. Busch cycled back into the lead and remained dominant. Not much action in the second stage as Busch won this one as well.
Brad Keselowski restarted the final stretch of the race in the lead. Kyle Busch suffered a pit road penalty and dropped to 19th place however Busch was able to catch up quickly. Right in the middle of green flag stops, a debris caution was called and with Busch, as one of the drivers that did not pit under the green flag, he was able to take over the race lead. There were only seven cars on the lead lap when the caution was called. Those that were lapped under green flag stops received the wave around coming to the restart. Busch recovered from his penalty and looked unbothered from the temporary inconvenience. He retained his dominant form and was able to take the checkered flag. Kyle Busch wins the AutoClub 400 for his 53rd cup series victory – 200th throughout all three NASCAR national series.
Kyle Busch has been receiving a decent amount of criticism leading up to this impressive feat. Even though all his wins have not come at the cup level like Richard Petty’s, Busch has shown that he can take over a race at any point. In yesterday’s race, after suffering a penalty on pit road, he quickly maneuvered his way back up to the top. He does not just need to hold onto a race lead and stay up front all day long to win. He can suffer penalties and have poor qualifying efforts and still be able to overcome the setbacks in order to win a race. We have seen it many times. Of course, it would help his legacy if would start winning more championships, but those will come. He still has a long career ahead of him to continue his dominance in this sport.
It is time for some short track racing as next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the paperclip of Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500. Martinsville is the toughest short track that drivers race on. The 500-lap race provides a lot of action as slower cars can get in the way. The race is usually bumper to bumper and a driver’s true skill will show on race day at on Martinsville Speedway.