Kyle Larson Triumphs in an Action-Packed Race at Fontana

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 27: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, and crew take a selfie in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 27, 2022, in Fontana, California. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson triumphs in an action-packed race at Fontana in the NASCAR Cup Series Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson waited until late in Sunday’s Wise Power 400 to flex his muscles.

Kyle Larson Triumphs in an Action-Packed Race at Fontana

In the end, the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet held off a charging Austin Dillon by 0.195 seconds at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., to notch his first victory of the season, his second at the two-mile track and the 17th of his career.

The race featured 12 cautions for 59 laps. While Larson, who started from the rear because of unapproved adjustments, took the lead from Joey Logano on lap 167 of 200. Larson went on to hold the lead for 27 of the final 34 circuits on the way to the victory.

The dominant car of Tyler Reddick suffered a flat left rear tire while leading on lap 152, and in the aftermath of that incident, he was collected by the sliding car of William Byron.

Reddick led 90 laps to that point—17 more than in his first 75 Cup starts combined. He also won the first and second stages in convincing fashion.

At the end of the race, Kyle Larson was the driver in a position to win. And it was Kyle Larson who triumphs in an action-packed race at Fontana outlasting arguably stronger cars.

“It’s always fun to win here in the home state,” said the Elk Grove, Calif., native Kyle Larson. “There were definitely some guys that were quicker than us, but they had their misfortunes. 

“Just kept our heads in it all day—long race. Restarts were crazy. The whole runs were crazy. So definitely wild, but cool to get a win here in California and hope we get on a little streak.”

Kyle Larson Makes a Mistake; Misfortune for Chase Elliott

Larson’s victory came at the expense of teammate Chase Elliott, who fell two laps down after scraping the wall on lap 33 and spinning off the second turn five laps later.

As the beneficiary under two cautions, Elliott regained the lead lap, drove through the field, and was battling Larson and Logano for the lead when Larson shot up the track and pinched Elliott’s Chevrolet into the outside wall. Larson said on his radio that he didn’t know Elliott was there.

It was Elliott who spun on lap 192 to cause the final caution and set up a dramatic four-lap sprint to the finish that saw Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez briefly wrestle the lead from Larson, thanks to a push from Petty GMS Motorsport’s Erik Jones. Larson regained the lead off the fourth turn with just over two laps left and held it the rest of the way.

NASCAR’s Next Gen Car Continues to Shine at Fontana

In a testament to the relative parity achieved by NASCAR’s new Next-Gen race car—admittedly with a small sample size so far—nine different Cup organizations finished in the top ten at Fontana.

One of those was the Trackhouse Racing team of Suarez, who rolled home fourth behind the Chevrolets of Larson, Dillon, and Jones.

“We’re going to win a few races very soon here,” Suarez said. “I just can’t thank everyone enough on my team. We had a fast car, but we went through a lot of adversity. We had a few issues. We hit the wall once. We had an issue with a diffuser. My pit crew, those guys are legends, it’s unbelievable.

“It’s the best pit crew I’ve ever had, and it’s a lot of fun to race like that. The Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, everyone that helps Trackhouse out, to be able to be here and perform this way… I can tell you that I’m going to work very, very hard to go to Victory Lane very, very soon here.”

The Rest of the Best

Logano ran fifth, followed by Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch (who started from the rear and served a pass-through penalty to start the race because of three inspection failures). Daniel Hemric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top ten.

Polesitter and Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric finished 12th after suffering damage in a four-car accident involving Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, and Harrison Burton on lap 158.

The NASCAR Cup Series Point Standings

Larson, who won ten races last year in his first season at Hendrick Motorsports, led four times for 28 laps, second only to Reddick’s 90. In the end, Kyle Larson triumphs at Fontana in the closing laps. All told, there were 32 lead changes among nine drivers in an event in which radical shuffling of the running order was commonplace.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 25th Wise Power 400

Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, California

Sunday, February 27, 2022

               1. (13)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.

               2. (16)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.

               3. (2)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 200.

               4. (15)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 200.

               5. (7)  Joey Logano, Ford, 200.

               6. (31)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 200.

               7. (32)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.

               8. (36)  Kurt Busch, Toyota, 200.

               9. (5)  Daniel Hemric(i), Chevrolet, 200.

               10. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 200.

               11. (21)  Cole Custer, Ford, 200.

               12. (1)  Austin Cindric #, Ford, 200.

               13. (12)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200.

               14. (3)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.

               15. (4)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.

               16. (24)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200.

               17. (18)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.

               18. (6)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.

               19. (34)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.

               20. (26)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 200.

               21. (29)  Garrett Smithley, Ford, 200.

               22. (30)  BJ McLeod, Ford, 200.

               23. (35)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 200.

               24. (11)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 199.

               25. (14)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 199.

               26. (8)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 198.

               27. (9)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 198.

               28. (25)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 198.

               29. (33)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 198.

               30. (28)  Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 198.

               31. (23)  Michael McDowell, Ford, Electrical, 193.

               32. (27)  Cody Ware, Ford, 187.

               33. (22)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, Accident, 157.

               34. (10)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 151.

               35. (20)  Chris Buescher, Ford, Accident, 111.

               36. (19)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Engine, 94.

The Wise Power 400 Stats

Average Speed of Race Winner:  114.222 mph.

Time of Race:  Three Hrs, Three Mins, Seven Secs. The Margin of Victory:  0.195 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  12 for 59 laps.

Lead Changes:  32 among nine drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Cindric # 0; E. Jones 1-10; T. Reddick 11-15; E. Jones 16; T. Reddick 17-22; C. Elliott 23-34; T. Reddick 35-38; W. Byron 39; T. Reddick 40-53; W. Byron 54; K. Harvick 55; T. Reddick 56-67; E. Jones 68; T. Reddick 69-73; K. Larson 74; C. Briscoe 75-91; W. Byron 92; T. Reddick 93-99; W. Byron 100-112; T. Reddick 113-121; E. Jones 122; T. Reddick 123-132; E. Jones 133; T. Reddick 134-151; E. Jones 152-155; J. Logano 156-166; K. Larson 167-174; R. Blaney 175; C. Briscoe 176-178; J. Logano 179-180; K. Larson 181-192; J. Logano 193; K. Larson 194-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Tyler Reddick ten times for 90 laps; Kyle Larson four times for 28 laps; Chase Briscoe two times for 20 laps; Erik Jones six times for 18 laps; William Byron four times for 16 laps; Joey Logano three times for 14 laps; Chase Elliott one time for 12 laps; Ryan Blaney one time for one lap; Kevin Harvick one time for one lap.

Stage 1 Top-Ten: 8,43,24,14,5,48,22,12,2,47

Stage 2 Top-Ten: 8,43,22,12,5,41,2,10,24,11