Talk about being around at the right moment, that’s exactly how Sunday’s action ended at the Auto Club Speedway. All weekend long the fastest car on the track was Kurt Busch, in his second race since being reinstated the week prior.
At the same time, another fast car on the afternoon, Matt Kenseth, was trying to end his winless streak that dated back to 2013.
For him, that hope ended late in the going. On a pit stop under caution, the axle broke, and he couldn’t go as hard as he hoped to get back to the front.
It came down to Busch, looking for redemption, and teammate Kevin Harvick, looking to sweep the entire western tour that NASCAR put together to start the season. On the first green-white-checkered attempt, they were not out front, as teams gambled on pit strategy. Yet when the yellow flag waved again, they already made it to the front.
Both cars had pitted for right-side tires, although Harvick called his own audible as the team wanted to get four, but when the moment came, he left the crew in the dust after only two were changed.
The final restart saw Busch get out front, and Harvick tried to give chase. Yet, another driver decided to poke his nose in the business of the teammates, and since he had pitted and got four new tires instead of just two, there was more speed, and more of a charge to get to the front. The white flag waved, and he went for it, getting the lead in the second corner.
An accident on the front stretch seemed to end the race, but when those involved were able to drive away, the track stayed clear, and in the end that pass would be the one to lead to victory.
The driver to do so was Brad Keselowski. He was not a factor all day long, and in fact was competing at his worst track. He finished no better than 18th in his career at this track. Keselowski took the checkered flag, taking the win and moving into the Chase.
He led one lap all day; in reality he didn’t even lead the full lap, maybe 75 percent of it. But, he was the first to the finish, and in the end that’s what matters.
Right place, right time, right call. That’s how to remember Sunday’s action.
RESULTS: 1-Keselowski 2-Harvick 3-Kurt Busch 4-Menard 5-Newman 6-Earnhardt Jr. 7-Logano 8-Truex Jr. 9-Johnson 10-Gordon
NOTABLE FINISHES: 13-Edwards 14-Stewart 17-Kahne 28-Hamlin
CAUTIONS: 7 for 31 laps. Lap 24-27 (#18 Spin-T4), 88-92 (Debris), 99-104 (#9, 6 Accident-BS), 154-158 (Debris), 186-189 (Debris), 200-202 (Debris), 204-207 (Debris).
LEAD CHANGES: 19 among 9 drivers. Kurt Busch 1-5, Harvick 6-24, Bowman 25, Kenseth 26-31, Hamlin 32-61, Gordon 62, Hamlin 63-88, Kenseth 89-94, Kurt Busch 95-99, Truex Jr. 100-104, Kurt Busch 105-137, Edwards 138, Kurt Busch 139-143, Harvick 144-154, Kenseth 155-185, Harvick 186-189, Kurt Busch 190-200, Gordon 201-202, Kurt Busch 203-208, Keselowski 209.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 58 Mins, 18 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 140.662 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.710 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Harvick, 225 points*; 2. Logano, -28*; 3. Truex Jr, -33; 4. Earnhardt Jr, -61; 5. Keselowski, -62*; 6. Newman, -63; 7. Johnson, -66*; 8. Kahne, -66; 9. Menard, -73; 10. Almirola, -87