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Kyle Busch defends Auto Club 400 title with repeat victory

Kyle Busch defends Auto Club 400 title with repeat victory-slide0
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

FONTANA, CA – Kyle Busch’s dominance continued at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana as the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 champion took home the checkered flag once again.

Kyle Busch victory at Auto Club Speedway
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Busch (No. 18, Interstate Batteries Toyota) held off rookie Kyle Larson (No. 42, Target Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 14, Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet) and his older brother Kurt Busch (No. 41, Haas Automation Chevrolet) in the wildly exciting finish in a race that featured a record 35 lead changes. A sold-out and enthusiastic crowd watched as Grand Marshal Gonzo of the Muppets started the race by directing drivers to start their engines.

“What an awesome race this track produced two days in a row,” said Busch, who held off Larson by 0.214 seconds in a green-white-checkered finish. “I can't believe it. Thank the Lord for getting us locked in the Chase."

The win for Busch, who held the lead twice and started 14th, was his third career win at Fontana and marked the fifth time in five races a new winner has emerged this NASCAR season. It was his 29th career Sprint Cup victory.

On Friday, Busch placed his feet, plaque and signature in the Auto Club Speedway Walk of Fame, and it’s a spot he’ll happily return to next March.

Matt Kenseth (No. 20, Dollar General Toyota) and Stewart finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while five-time Auto Club Speedway Cup winner Jimmie Johnson (No. 48, Lowe’s Spring Is Calling Chevrolet) blew a tire while in the lead with seven laps to go. He finished 24th.

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) overtook the lead at that point, but it was short-lived as Clint Bowyer (No. 15, PEAK Toyota) spun to cause a yellow with two laps left.

It was the second straight day Busch and Larson battled till the very end as Larson won Saturday’s NASCAR NNS TREATMYCLOT.com 300 race, the first of his career. ''I don't know where everybody went, but I somehow ended up in second and it entered my mind, 'We might sweep the weekend,' ” Larson said.

''I came off the fourth turn in disbelief that we won this thing, because we were mediocre all day,'' Kyle Busch said. ''It was really weird for us, not a race that we're typically used to. But now there's a load off your shoulders that you can go out the rest of the season and race the way you want to.''

Jamie McMurray (No. 1, McDonald’s Chevrolet), Brian Vickers (No. 55, TreatMyClot.com/Aaron’s Toyota), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47, Charter Chevrolet), Paul Menard (No. 27, Duracell/Menards Chevrolet) and Carl Edwards (No. 99, Subway Ford) finished 6-10, respectively.

Edwards finish kept him one point ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88, National Guard Chevrolet), who finished 12th, for the overall points lead. Gordon was 13th and Danica Patrick (No. 10, GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet) was 14th.