It took until the fifth race of the year, but Joe Gibbs Racing finally got its first Sprint Cup points race victory of the 2014 season when Kyle Busch crossed the finish line ahead of rookie Kyle Larson.
The final lap of the green-white-checker finish featured the same two players from a nearly identical final-lap duel that took place in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, when Larson finished first.
On Sunday, the roles were reversed, as Busch used up every foot of the track to keep a charging Larson behind him and capture the win. The Target/Chip Ganassi Racing rookie, meanwhile, proved once again that he’s good enough to play with the big kids and that he's also good enough to beat them at their own game.
The sellout grandstand crowd of more than 61,000, according to the television broadcast, which in itself was a tremendous accomplishment, was treated to an uncharacteristically entertaining race that featured 35 lead changes, breaking the previous record of 33.
The race was marred by nearly 20 tire failures, the result of a large number of crew chiefs aggressively chasing the worn-out surface of Auto Club Speedway (it has not been paved since 1997) with lower-than-recommended tire pressures and aggressive tire camber angles in an effort to obtain more mechanical grip.
As mentioned, Larson was second, followed by winner Busch’s older brother Kurt, who scored a much-needed top-five finish. Pole winner Matt Kenseth finished fourth.
Carl Edwards, who finished 10th and was never a real factor in the race, inherited the points lead by one point over Dale Earnhardt Jr.