Mar 22, 2015; Fontana, CA, USA; Sprint Cup series driver Brad Keselowski celebrates his victory at the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
After two green-white-checker restarts on four new tires, Brad Keselowski took the lead on the final lap of the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Sunday to claim the win at what has traditionally been his worst race track.
"“My crew chief, Paul Wolfe, made a gutsy call to take four tires. Half the field took two,” Keselowski said."
The win was Keselowski’s first top-10 finish at the track where he had an average finish of 23rd.
Kevin Harvick finished second to extend his streak of top-two finishes to eight races, dating back to the final three races of 2014.
"“I’m not disappointed at all,” Harvick said of seeing his streak of consecutive wins end at two races. “I’m just glad to be a part of such a good race there. I’m really happy that all the fans got to come out and see a great finish to a great day. I’m just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team.”"
Kurt Busch finished third after leading a race-high 65 laps.
"“I don’t know what we could have done different,” Busch said. “We just got pinned in by the yellows and the sequence at the end on which tires we needed to have to optimize how many laps were left. We had two tires; Keselowski had four. We didn’t need that extra yellow at the end, and I just got out muscled by Keselowski.”"
The race was dominated by the Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin and Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, Busch and Harvick. Harvick led 34 laps, while Kenseth led 43 and Hamlin 56. The next driver down the laps led list was Martin Truex Jr. with five laps led. Keselowski led only one lap — the last one.
Busch, Harvick, Kenseth and Hamlin ran within the top-five throughout the race, but things went sour for the JGR teammates — Hamlin and Kenseth — during a lap 185 caution. Hamlin was handed a NASCAR penalty for an uncontrolled tire on pit road. Kenseth, meanwhile, broke an axle getting out of his pit stall. Kenseth was the race leader before the caution.
The first of two yellow flags that led to two green-white-checker attempts waved on lap 198. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle stayed out for track position, while the frontrunners hit pit road, some for two tires, others for four. Busch and Harvick took two, while Keselowski took four.
"“You could’ve flipped a coin for the right call there,” Harvick said."
When the race restarted, Busch drove between Gordon and Stewart to take the lead, and Harvick followed him through for second. Aftere another caution and restart, Keselowski’s tires paid off, allowing him to get by Harvick for second and then by Busch for the lead and the win on the final lap. Just before the checkered flag, Harvick also got by Busch for second.
Paul Menard finished fourth, and Ryan Newman was fifth.