FONTANA, CALI. – Kyle Larson earning his 17th NASCAR Cup Series win could be described as about the only typical thing that occurred in Sunday’s Wise Power 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
Larson held off Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Joey Logano, who rounded out the top 5. He earned the win in a 4-lap battle set up by a caution for Chase Elliott spinning in turn 2.
Elliott spun after making contact with Larson while they raced with Logano for the lead on the frontstretch. Elliott limped around the track and went a lap down before he spun and brought out the final caution on Lap 193.
On the Lap 196 restart, Larson fended off all challenges and earned his 17th career win.
Larson led 4 times for 28 laps and was among the 9 leaders who changed the lead 32 times in the race.
Seven of the nine leaders in Sunday’s race were drivers with less than 10 full-time seasons of experience in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe were among those seven drivers. Reddick and Briscoe each led a career-high number of laps Sunday – and were viable candidates to be the 200th different winner in NASCAR Cup Series history.
Tyler Reddick led 10 times for 90 laps – the most of any driver – and swept the stages.
Reddick was in prime contention to win until he blew a left-rear tire on Lap 153. As Reddick limped along at the exit of turn 2, William Byron crashed into him, knocking Byron out of the race and causing issues for Reddick.
Reddick’s broke a toe link after the incident and fell to 30th, two laps down, while the team worked on the car.
“We can’t buy a break. Best car of the week, best car of the year,” Reddick said over the radio.
“You guys did a hell of a job. Keep it up, keep it buddy,” added a dejected Richard Childress.
Reddick continued with a damaged racecar after the wreck and finished 24th, one lap down.
Chase Briscoe led twice for 20 laps, the third-most of any driver. He finished 16th.
Erik Jones led 6 times for 18 laps, which was more laps than he had led in 2020 and 2021 combined (12 laps).
Jones and Reddick dominated the race as they consistently found themselves in the top two spots until the Lap 153 caution for Reddick’s wreck changed things.
“We had some contact with the 2 (sic) car and it knocked the toe in a good amount to where I noticed it and it affected us,” Jones stated. “We never really got the car back to where it was before that and we bandaged it to get it as good as we could after that. Then once we got in traffic, we got really tight.”
Jones rallied to 3rd in the final laps and finished behind Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon – and ahead of Daniel Suarez who charged to be another viable candidate for the NASCAR Cup Series’ 200th different winner.
“I thought I was gonna be able to hold him off. I was gonna run high, he [Larson] was gonna run low and I just got too tight,” Suarez discussed. “In the long run I was able to keep up with him but in the short run, I just didn’t have enough juice. That’s fine, we’ll learn and come back strong.”
Not everything was rosy for all drivers in Sunday’s race, as the caution fell 12 times for 59 laps, including multiple incidents.
The exit of turns 2 and 4 were the trickiest as 9 of the 12 cautions fell because of incidents in those areas.
Roush Fenway-Keselowski Racing had two casualties to turn 2.
Chris Buescher crashed out of the race on Lap 112 after the car snapped around and hit the wall.
“I don’t know if we ran over something or something happened out there but I didn’t expect that to happen on just a few laps on the tires,” Buescher said.
Brad Keselowski suffered damage in a Lap 159 wreck that took him out of contention.
Buescher finished 35th, 89 laps down and Keselowski finished 27th, 2 laps down.
Ross Chastain, Josh Bilicki, Christopher Bell and Chase Elliott each lost laps after incidents involving a downed tire and the grass.
THROUGH THE FIELD
Aric Almirola finished 6th after saving the car off of turn 4 and falling off the lead lap on Lap 137.
Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch finished 7th and 8th after starting in the rear for Sunday’s race. Harvick crashed in practice and Busch failed pre-race inspection.
Cole Custer finished 11th after winning the Saturday NASCAR Xfinity race and Austin Cindric finished 12th after winning the Daytona 500.
Kyle Busch finished 14th, on the lead lap, after falling several laps due to an early spin and a tire problem. Busch received the free pass on each of the last two cautions.
Ross Chastain finished 29th after he drove to the top 5 with a backup car. Chastain started in the rear with the car after crashing hard in practice.
Michael McDowell finished 31st, 7 laps down, after having battery issues late in the race.