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Kyle Busch wins his second consecutive Auto Club 400

Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88 National Guard Chevrolet, and The Great Gonzo are seen in the garage area prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2014 in Fontana, California.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88 National Guard Chevrolet, and The Great Gonzo are seen in the garage area prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 23, 2014 in Fontana, California.
NASCAR Via Getty Images

In front of a sold out grandstand, Kyle Busch won the 18th Annual Auto Club 400, coming from 5th on the green-white-checkered, to race for the victory for the second consecutive season. Busch held off rookie Kyle Larson by 0.214 seconds for the win.

Kyle Busch wins his second consecutive Auto Club 400
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

This is his first victory for the 2014 season, and his 29th career win in 334 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

“Fans won today too, man, holy cow, what do you expect when you got a green-white-checkered finish and everyone’s got to come down pit road and put 4 tires on,” said Busch in victory lane, making this his third career victory at Auto Club Speedway. “That right there is the Days of Thunder thing right there.”

The 18th Annual Auto Club 400, had Gonzo the Great from the Muppets give the command for drivers, ‘To start their engines,’ also featured a record 35 lead changes among 15 different drivers, with the last lead lap change when Busch took the lead for the second time through-out the race.

Kyle Busch’s win makes 5 different race winners for this year, and another driver virtually guarantees a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“I came off the fourth turn in disbelief that we won this thing, because we were mediocre all day,” 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.”

During the race there was 16 recorded tire problems including Jimmie Johnson, while leading, with 7 laps remaining, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose with 5 laps to go, the race remained green until Clint Bowyer driving the #15 PEAK Toyota blew a tire and spun with 2 laps to go to bring out the caution sending the leaders to pit road for the green-white-checkers.

Problems with the tires were cause by the new aero rules producing higher speeds which in-turn leads to extra stress on the tires with the bumpy asphalt on the back straightaway at the speedway in Fontana, which has eaten up tires previously.

“By no means is this a problem for Goodyear,” Kurt Busch said, in reference to the tire manufacturer for NASCAR. “It’s just a thumbs up for NASCAR for allowing teams to get aggressive in all areas.”

Larson, who scored his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win Saturday, was a career-best second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, followed by Kurt Busch, who gambled and took two tires, restarted second but fell to third. Matt Kenseth finished fourth with Tony Stewart finishing fifth.

Sam Hornish Jr. stepped into the seat of the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota, for Denny Hamlin who was not cleared by NASCAR medically to race due to a sinus infection that was affecting his vision. Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs announced 30 minutes before the start of today’s race. Hamlin was transported to a hospital for further evaluation.

This race marked one year when the race ended with Hamlin getting airlifted from the track with a broken vertebra, causing him to miss the next few races. Joey Logano, who was involved in the last lap crash with Hamlin, crashed earlier in the week, went to the garage after 114 laps finishing 39th in his back-up car. Hornish Jr. finished 17th in the #11 Fed-Ex Toyota.

Next weekend, March 30, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500, with coverage beginning at 1:00 p.m. eastern standard time on Fox.