Brad Keselowski single handedly upset Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing and Kurt Busch with a last-lap pass on the race-leading driver for the win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California Sunday. Kurt Busch, along with teammate Kevin Harvick, had led the pack of 43 cars all day, but they were unable to fend off a hard-charging Keselowski under the second and final green-white checker finish.
Many believed either Harvick or Kurt Busch had the race in the bag, as they were clearly the two fastest cars on track all weekend. Kurt Busch led a race high 65-laps, many of which Harvick spent riding his bumper, but the pairings’ tire strategies would ultimately cost them the race.
A caution for debris was brought out on Lap 200, putting out the first green-white checker flag. Many of the race leaders opted to take two tires, however Keselowski took four. A second caution was put out after Kyle Larson’s bumper flew off, positioning Keselowski in 6th on the restart. With four fresh tires, he was able to easily fly past Harvick and Busch for the upset win on the final lap.
“I knew the 4 (Harvick) and the 41 (Busch) had been kind of the class of the weekend,” Keselowski told reporters post-race. “And those cars, you know, on speed definitely deserved to win, so we kind of stole one today.”
Busch said the two green-white checker finishes likely cost him the race, along with the decision to take just two tires for the final restart.
“We just got hung out on the yellows at the end,” Busch said. “When do you pit to pit four tires on? When do you pit to put two tires on? And that last restart, I just didn’t get the job done. Brad outmuscled us with four tires.”
Chevrolet dominated the remaining top 10 positions with Paul Menard in fourth, Ryan Newman in fifth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in sixth, Martin Truex Jr. in eighth and Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon in ninth and tenth, respectively. Harvick currently sits first in points standings, with a 28 point lead over Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano.
This week, NASCAR heads out to one of the most anticipated venues on the calendar, Martinsville. Team Chevy will be looking to grow their lead when green flag waves at the legendary “paperclip” on Sunday, March 29 at 1 p.m.