NASCAR at California 2014 Results: Winner, Standings, Highlights and Reaction

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2014

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Just one day after Kyle Larson held off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to win the 2014 300 in the Nationwide Series, Busch made sure lightning didn't strike twice. He took home the checkered flag in Sunday's Auto Club 400 after passing and then holding off Larson on the final lap.   

The way Busch moved down to block Larson was nothing short of masterful. It looked like the 21-year-old had a window, until the veteran closed it immediately.

It's Busch's second win at Fontana in a row, per Nate Ryan of USA Today:

His late-race heroics have also become synonymous with the track, as the race has been won with a pass on the final lap in three of the last four years, per's Matt Willis:

A caution on Lap 198 led to a green-white-checker finish, thus building to what was a great finish. After the victory, Busch compared the race to Days of Thunder, per Newy Scruggs of NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth:

Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five. You can view the full leaderboard on

Auto Club 400 Leaderboard
1Kyle Busch
2Kyle Larson
3Kurt Busch
4Matt Kenseth
5Tony Stewart
6Jamie McMurray
7Brian Vickers
8A.J. Allmendinger
9Paul Menard
10Carl Edwards

Despite his second-place finish, you can't discount how well Larson drove on Sunday. Late in the race, in a span of a few laps, he jumped from ninth to second. It seemed that maybe the stars were aligning for the emerging star, that he would cap off what would have been a great weekend.

It wasn't to be, but that's no reason to be down about the result. Larson ran a great race; it just so happened Busch ran a better one.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
1Carl Edwards186
2Dale Earnhardt Jr.185
3Jeff Gordon184
4Brad Keselowski182
5Matt Kenseth179
6Jimmie Johnson165
7Kyle Busch158
8Ryan Newman150
9Austin Dillon150
10Joey Logano146

The bigger story of the day was tires. It seemed like every 25 laps, somebody was blowing one or even two tires. Jimmie Johnson was in the lead with seven laps to go, until he blew a tire. That set up the frantic finish.

Earlier in the race, the problem got so bad that there was a possibility that teams would run out and need NASCAR to allow an extra set, per USA Today's Jeff Gluck:

Greg Stucker of Goodyear said that it wasn't an issue with the tires themselves; rather, the reason for the blowouts was because of the preparation for some teams:

Gluck added that some tested the limits of the track, which may have been a miscalculation:

The biggest question late in the race was how the leaders would handle the tire problem. Would they risk it and take two tires, or play it safer and get all four?

In the end, Kyle Busch took four before the final restart, which likely allowed him to overtake Larson and hold him off for the rest of the race. Kurt Busch and Stewart both took only two tires, so the gamble ultimately didn't pay off.

Even with such a crazy finish, arguably the most fun moment of the race came in the 69th lap.

Aric Almirola was driving up near the wall, while Brian Scott was at the bottom. As Almirola looked to make a move, his progress was impeded, so he had to slow down. Scott moved up anticipating Almirola to be gone, so when the No. 43 car was still there, the No. 33 couldn't help but to make contact, sending both cars into the infield.

Almirola was less than diplomatic in his post-wreck response, dropping some major bombs on Scott, per ESPN's Marty Smith:

With a comment like that, it's doubtful that you've seen the last of these two going at it on the track.

Drivers will head to Martinsville, Va., for next week's STP 500. Johnson is the defending champion, so this is a great chance for the 2013 points champion to get his first win of the 2014 season.

This win was huge for Busch, as he entered the Auto Club 400 in 14th in the points standings. He had yet to record even a top-five finish before Sunday. With this victory, he has set himself up well to qualify for the final chase, and he'll want to build on this momentum in Martinsville next week.


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