The Champ has Arrived: Truex Returns to Form at Auto Club

After leading 125 of 200 laps and winning both stages, Martin Truex Jr. took victory in the Auto Club 400. This is his first win of 2018, and the 16th of his career. The race featured five cautions and only ten cars finished on the lead lap.

On the initial start, Truex, who was also the polesitter, was able to get away, quickly building a modest lead over second-place Kyle Busch. About ten laps in, though, Busch was able to erase that lead and get by Truex. Shortly after the first round of green-flag pit stops concluded, Truex got back by Busch. After a spirited battle with Kyle Larson for third, Kevin Harvick slammed the wall after contact with Larson. The wreck would end Harvick’s bid for four consecutive wins.

Truex retained the lead through pit stops and would get away early, similar to the initial start. As the laps wound down, Ryan Blaney tagged the wall and was forced to pit. He was running eighth. Truex, though, strode away from Kyle Busch to win stage one by over three seconds.

Joey Logano beat Truex off pit road, and Brad Keselowski beat Kyle Busch for third exiting. Logano was able to get away on the restart, but Truex quickly put the No. 22 car behind him and marched away once again. Truex maintained the lead through the day’s second round of green flag pit stops as well. With 12 laps left in stage two, Trevor Bayne got into the wall after blowing a right front tire. Bayne had collided with Ryan Newman, which cut his tire down. Menard blew a tire at the same time, but sustained no damage. On the restart with seven laps left in the stage, Truex cleared Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to keep the lead, and would take the stage win.

On the restart, Kyle Busch took the lead away, but David Ragan brought the caution out a few laps later after he hit the wall and cut a right front tire. During the pit stops, William Byron took two tires and the lead, while Truex fell to fifth. Kasey Kahne stayed out, and Byron and he restarted side-by-side. Kyle Busch, though, would have none of it, passing them both quickly. With just under 50 laps to go, Matt DiBenedetto hit the wall, but the race stayed green.

As the race eclipsed 40 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr. passed Kyle Busch, and shortly after, green flag pit stops began. The two pitted and Kyle Busch got a better launch exiting his pit stall. Busch was able to take the lead right back. With 32 laps to go, Truex was able to pass Busch once again. With around 20 laps remaining, Kyle Larson got by Busch for second, but was still over six second behind leader Truex. The faster Truex was able to maintain that lead and take home the win.

Below are the full results from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway:

  1. Martin Truex Jr. (Stages 1 and 2)
  2. Kyle Larson
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Erik Jones
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Jimmie Johnson
  10. Austin Dillon
  11. Clint Bowyer
  12. Aric Almirola
  13. Alex Bowman
  14. Kurt Busch
  15. William Byron (Rookie)
  16. Chase Elliott
  17. Jamie McMurray
  18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  19. Paul Menard
  20. Darrell Wallace Jr.
  21. Ryan Newman
  22. AJ Allmendinger
  23. Daniel Suarez
  24. Kasey Kahne
  25. David Ragan
  26. Michael McDowell
  27. Ty Dillon
  28. Cole Whitt
  29. Ross Chastain
  30. Chris Buescher
  31. Matt DiBenedetto
  32. Gray Gaulding
  33. Timmy Hill
  34. Reed Sorenson
  35. Kevin Harvick
  36. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  37. Trevor Bayne (Crash)

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