NASCAR at California 2017 Results: Winner, Standings, Highlights and Reaction

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2017

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 26:  Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, drives during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26, 2017 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

A series of cautions in the final laps led to a wild finish at the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California. When the smoke cleared and overtime concluded, however, it was Kyle Larson who managed to cross the finish line first.

Larson enjoyed a well-earned celebration after his big win, per Fox Sports: NASCAR:

You can see the full results below:

Auto Club 400 Results
PlaceDriverPointsPlayoff Points
1Kyle Larson596
2Brad Keselowski365
3Clint Bowyer460
4Martin Truex Jr.528
5Joey Logano391
6Jamie McMurray430
7Daniel Suarez300
8Kyle Busch301
9Ryan Blaney300
10Chase Elliott431
11Austin Dillon260
12Erik Jones340
13Kevin Harvick243
14Denny Hamlin260
15Ryan Newman225
16Dale Earnhardt Jr.210
17AJ Allmendinger200
18Ty Dillon190
19Aric Almirola180
20Kasey Kahne170
21Jimmie Johnson160
22Ricky Stenhouse Jr.150
23Trevor Bayne140
24Kurt Busch135
25Chris Buescher120
26Danica Patrick110
27Landon Cassill100
28Paul Menard90
29Matt DiBenedetto80
30Corey LaJoie70
31David Ragan60
32Cole Whitt50
33Michael McDowell40
34Reed Sorenson30
35Timmy Hill00
36Matt Kenseth10
37Gray Gaulding10
38Derrike Cope10
39Jeffrey Earnhardt10
Source: NASCAR.com

The multiple cautions set up an interesting conundrum for drivers in the final laps of the race: Take a pit stop or stay out?

Larson chose to take a pit stop and get fresh tires, a decision that was ultimately justified. When he pitted in the seventh lap, he restarted in fourth place. Two laps later, he had taken first place ahead of three drivers who chose against pitting. Almost immediately after he took the lead, however, a caution forced him to hold the lead for yet another restart, per NASCAR:

He managed to do just that, earning his first win of the season and second of his career. Fox Sports shared the race's final moments:

After finishing in second place three races in a row, the points leader coming into the day finally got his win. It's been a good run for Larson, as NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck noted:

Here's a look at the updated standings:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings
RankDriverPoints
1Kyle Larson243
2Chase Elliott214
3Martin Truex Jr205
4Brad Keselowski179
5Joey Logano174
6Jamie McMurray162
7Ryan Blaney157
8Clint Bowyer143
9Kevin Harvick137
10Kyle Busch136
11Ryan Newman123
12Denny Hamlin123
13Kasey Kahne122
14Kurt Busch118
15Erik Jones116
16Trevor Bayne114
17Jimmie Johnson109
18Aric Almirola108
19Daniel Suarez102
20Austin Dillon92
21Dale Earnhardt Jr.91
22Paul Menard87
23Ty Dillon87
24Ricky Stenhouse Jr.86
25Matt Kenseth73
26Michael McDowell66
27Landon Cassill65
28Matt DiBenedetto64
29Danica Patrick63
30AJ Allmendinger59
31Cole Whitt55
32Chris Buescher51
33David Ragan43
34Michael Waltrip29
35Corey LaJoie25
36Jeffrey Earnhardt22
37Reed Sorenson22
38Derrike Cope8
39Gray Gaulding6
40D.J. Kennington1
41Cody Ware1
42Brendan Gaughan0
43Elliott Sadler0
44Joey Gase0
45Timmy Hill0
Source: NASCAR.com

Larson, the pole-sitter for the race, also won the first stage. Martin Truex Jr. took the second stage, and the two men battled for most of the afternoon.

An early crash, meanwhile, seemed to set the stage for the wild finish after Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick all collided. It was a testament to Keselowski that he overcame such a tough start to ultimately finish second. And while the race was largely clean after that, four cautions in the final 20 laps set the stage for Larson's win.

Up next is the STP 500 at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

 

Post-Race Reaction

FONTANA, CA - MARCH 26:  Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 26, 2017 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Sarah Crabill/
Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Larson is certainly enjoying himself these days.

"Lots of fun to be Kyle Larson right now," he told Greg Beacham of the Associated Press. "Our race cars are really fast in Xfinity and Cup, so it's a blast to show up to the race track every week."

He added: "I feel like I have a shot to win every time I go to the race track. That's always a lot of fun. That's something I've always hoped for, to get to a point like that in my NASCAR career. In the past, I had race tracks where I knew I would be good, but right now, we're going to some tracks that aren't good for me and running up front. It's a lot of fun to have that confidence."

Keselowski, who had an excellent afternoon himself, praised Larson after the race.

"He's on a really nice roll, and it takes everything," he said, per the AP. "This is a sport of speed, execution and luck, and when you're on a roll like that, you've got all three on your side."

Team owner Chip Ganassi added: "I think he's got a long way to go. I have no idea what he's capable of. Your guess is as good as mine."

Based on his recent performances, Larson would appear to be capable of quite a bit.