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:
FOX SPORTS: NASCAR @NASCARONFOX
First. Finally. @KyleLarsonRacin #NASCARGoesWest https://t.co/CcqHg1z9MT3/26/2017, 10:56:05 PM
You can see the full results below:
|Auto Club 400 Results|
|4||Martin Truex Jr.||52||8|
|16||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||21||0|
|22||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||15||0|
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:
.@KyleLarsonRacin had just taken the lead when the caution came out! #NASCARonFOX https://t.co/RWHe7Uro8t3/26/2017, 10:44:27 PM
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:
FOX Sports @FOXSports
.@KyleLarsonRacin survives #NASCAROvertime in California to claim his 2nd @MonsterEnergy #NASCAR Cup Series win. https://t.co/z4djo4sNRe3/26/2017, 11:01:56 PM
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:
Jeff Gluck @jeff_gluck
Kyle Larson's last seven finishes (dating to Phx last November): 3-2-12-2-2-2-1.3/26/2017, 10:49:28 PM
Here's a look at the updated standings:
|Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings|
|3||Martin Truex Jr||205|
|21||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||91|
|24||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||86|
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.
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.