The Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana was the equivalent of an 88-87 NBA game ending on a halfcourt heave, a pitcher's duel ending on a bottom-of-the-ninth homer, the final few exciting moments almost making up for three hours of boredom preceding them.
The finish of the race was the best of the year, even besting Daytona, in that you had three of NASCAR's best in the hunt in the final laps, and you had no idea who was going to take it home. Two lead changes, half a dozen near-lead changes, and Kevin Harvick took the checkers without even leading a full lap. Jimmie Johnson, bested by Harvick in the final moments, nearly turned pit-road nightmares into an unlikely victory. And Kyle Busch, who dominated the race for so long, got a reminder that running in Sprint Cup isn't quite like stomping the competition in the lower Nationwide and Trucks series.
But let's not delude ourselves here; this was a perfect ending to a mostly dull afternoon. ACS's layout gives us five-wide racing, yes, but only for a few instants on restarts. Then everybody strings out like planes on approach to a runway. And when you've got a car as dominant as Kyle Busch's was on Sunday, you've got a race that, for most of the time, is about as much fun as watching a toll booth.
Busch's car was dominant for about 195 of the 200 laps, and he simply didn't have enough horsepower to hold off Johnson and, later, Harvick. For his part, Johnson just got flat-out outdriven by Harvick on the final laps, bumped and juked and finally passed for an impressive closing win. Jimmy John's defeats Jimmie Johnson!
"It's like kissing your sister, running second," Johnson said after the race. We could say the same thing about watching most of this one.