After climbing from his car in victory lane, Kyle Busch was quick to break out a Days of Thunder reference.
Yeah, it was a wild final two laps at Auto Club Speedway. After a spate of tire issues jumbled up the field as the race's final long green flag run wound down, Busch took the lead off turn two on the final lap of a green-white-checker restart and held off Kyle Larson for the win.
It's Busch's second straight Cup win at Auto Club Speedway. On Saturday, Larson beat Busch for the victory in the Nationwide Series race.
"What do you expect when you get a green-white-checker finish and everyone's got to come down pit road and put four tires on?" Busch asked before channeling Harry Hogge, Robert Duvall's character in the 1990 film. "That's a 'Days of Thunder' thing right there. It's - 'What do you mean? there's two laps to go, everybody's going to pit, Cole.'"
After Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose and finally Clint Bowyer had tire issues in the final 10 laps of the race, the caution flag flew for Bowyer's spin as then-leader Jeff Gordon had two laps to go until the scheduled end of the race.
The race then became about tire strategy. While Landon Cassill stayed out in a Hail Mary attempt for his low-budget team to snatch an improbable win or top 10, everyone else hit pit road. Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Paul Menard took two tires. Everyone else, including Busch, took four.
Stewart and Kurt Busch battled for the lead through turn two that final lap and when Stewart slid high, that opened the door for Kyle Busch, who came through the middle with Larson right behind him. Larson made a dive into turn three for a way around Kyle Busch, but unlike Saturday's race, he wasn't able to power ahead of him for the win.
Because of the finish and the overall quality of racing at Auto Club Speedway last year, when Busch powered past Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin as the latter two drivers crashed off of turn four on the final lap, the standards for Sunday's race at ACS were very high. And typically, the NASCAR hype machine tends to devour anything and everything in its path, leaving little to live up to the lofty expectations that are created.
And you know what? The race lived up to them, even if there wouldn't have been a final two-lap wild dash. Yes, many teams had tire issues, but it's the same tire that produced such dramatic racing last year. There was still plenty of passing and multi-groove racing as drivers with good cars were able to cut their way through the field if necessary.
After finishing 10th, Carl Edwards is the new points leader by a single point over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon is third, two points behind Edwards.
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