Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Auto Club 400 after early drama



Kyle Larson won the first stage in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway by 0.448-seconds over Martin Truex Jr.

The stage win was the first for the pole-sitter in 2017.

I feel pretty good,” Larson said of his first run. “It was nice to get the stage win and the bonus points for the end of the year.”

Truex, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.

Larson also became the only driver to place in the top 10 in all five first stages this season.

The Auto Club 400 got off to a jumbled start as the inside line led by Denny Hamlin stalled causing a chain reaction with Brad Keselowski to plow into the No. 11 and Ryan Newman plowed into the No. 2 Ford. Kevin Harvick also was involved.

Three laps later, Keselowski spun off of Turn 4 after contact with Jimmie Johnson to ignite the first caution. Four cars stayed out, the Nos. 27, 38, 33, and 51. However, Larson quickly regained the lead on the Lap 8 restart. The No. 42 had extended its lead by 1.5 after one lap.

On Lap 25, Harvick cut a right rear tire on the back stretch and brought the No. 4 Chevy to the pits for tires. He restarted 37th and ended the stage in 30th.

Larson held the point until pit stops on Lap 32 when he pitted. Martin Truex Jr. took the lead off of pit road and maintained a 0.483-second lead with 15 laps remaining in the first segment.

When Truex and Larson crossed the line after 47 laps, the No. 42 trailed the No. 78 by just two car lengths. Truex had led 12 laps when Larson went to the inside in Turn 4 and completed the pass for the lead on Lap 48.

On Lap 53, Larson lapped Johnson who was running in 20th. Three laps later, Larson lapped Keselowski to leave 18 cars on the lead lap. Keselowski was granted the free pass at the end of the stage and will make it 19 cars on the lead lap.

Logano, who started 35th, gained the most positions in the first stage — 28.