Kyle Larson had a fast car through long green flag runs during Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway. And, thankfully for him, he had the fastest car on short runs too.
The win comes after Larson finished second in the previous three races of the 2017 season. The driver of the No. 42 car is a deserved points leader and has now finished in the top two in five of the last six races dating back to the 2016 season finale.
“I was staying as calm as I could be, but also frustrated at the same time,” Larson said of the cautions. “It seems like every time I get to the lead at the end of one of these things, the caution comes out and I’ve got to fight people off on restarts … This is just amazing. We have been so good all year long, three seconds in a row. I’ve been watching all the TV like ‘he doesn’t know how to win’, but we knew how to win today, so that was good.”
Larson looked like he was in a bit of a pickle when the caution flag flew for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s spin with less than five laps to go. With a two-lap restart upcoming and tires at a premium on the worn surface of the 2-mile oval, Larson was at a monstrous disadvantage if the drivers immediately behind him pitted for fresh tires before the final restart.
They didn’t. And with second-place Denny Hamlin on older tires than Larson, the California native was sitting pretty. As Hamlin served as a chicane for Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. couldn’t mount a challenge to the No. 42, Larson sprinted away unchallenged over the final two laps.
The calls not to pit behind Larson were a bit curious. After Keselowski spun because of a flat tire at the beginning of the race, all but two of the field’s 39 drivers elected to pit just three laps into the race. If tires were so important after so few laps at the beginning, wouldn’t they be vital at the end? Larson’s car was so good that no one was beating him without fresh tires or a mistake.
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