Thrilling Ending to The Auto Club 400
FONTANA, Calif. -- Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano knocked each other off the race track on the final lap of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 -- allowing Kyle Busch to steal the win -- but it was Tony Stewart who was fighting mad after the race.
Yes, it was Busch’s 25th victory in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Yes, Busch broke a 31-race drought. Yes, Busch gave Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota their first victory at Auto Club Speedway.
But it was the banging between pole-sitter Hamlin and Logano and an angry confrontation between the crews of Stewart and Logano that stole attention from Busch’s milestone win. Stewart took umbrage at a block by Logano on the final restart with 11 laps left in the 200-mile event.
His momentum broken by the block, Stewart fell through the field and finished 22nd. Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran second, 1.261 seconds behind Busch.
Kurt Busch overcame a brush with the wall and a speeding penalty to finish third, followed by Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.
Logano limped home in sixth, but Hamlin nosed hard into the inside wall and was credited with a 25th-place finish. Hamlin reportedly was awake and alert following the crash but was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
A caution on lap 170 for Marcos Ambrose’s blown left-rear tire followed almost immediately a round of green-flag pit stops and wiped out Busch’s five-second lead over Harvick. That set up a restart on Lap 175 with Busch on the outside and Harvick beside him in the inside lane.
Harvick, however, failed to launch on the restart, allowing Kahne to move into second with Stewart behind him. One lap later, Mark Martin’s spin off Turn 2 brought out the seventh caution and bunched the field for a restart on Lap 181.
Kyle Busch pulled away once again, but the engine in Clint Bowyer’s Toyota exploded on Lap 185, giving cars running ninth on back a chance to pit for fresh tires I hopes of gaining ground on a final charge to the finish.
Kyle Busch paced the field to a restart on Lap 190 with Logano beside him, despite overheating issues that threatened his chances for a strong finish. Stewart was third and Kurt Busch fourth when the field took the green.
Stewart was the biggest loser on the restart, thanks to the block Logano threw on the No. 14 car as the field stormed through Turn 1. Logano got the better of Kyle Busch on Lap 194, as Hamlin streaked through the field on fresh tires to move into second.
Just past the finish line on Lap 199, Hamlin moved to the outside of Logano, and the drivers banged doors repeatedly until the contact sent Hamlin spinning and Logano into the outside wall, allowing Kyle Busch to steal the win.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race - Auto Club 400 (unofficial results)
Auto Club Speedway
Sunday, March 24, 2013
1. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, $334233.
2. (15) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 200, $212340.
3. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, $189210.
4. (24) Carl Edwards, Ford, 200, $176965.
5. (10) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200, $136965.
6. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, 200, $144473.
7. (5) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 200, $146631.
8. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 200, $138156.
9. (16) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 200, $119365.
10. (20) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 200, $144148.