California cruising: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Auto Club Speedway

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Martin Truex Jr.’s dominating style returned Sunday, as he started from the pole, captured both stages and won the Auto Club 400 by 11.685 seconds. 

The reigning series champion scored his first Cup triumph of the season and the 16th of his career. This marked the third time he’s won both stages and then the race. He led 125 of the 200 laps, including the final 32.

“We were just fighting hard and never gave up on it,’’ Truex told Fox Sports. “I knew we really had a good racecar after the first adjustment of the race. The thing just came alive. From there it was just about managing my tires and being smart.’’

MORE: Race results 

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. takes points lead

Kyle Larson, who had won the past four races on 2-mile tracks, finished second. Kyle Busch, who finished second the past two races, was third. Brad Keselowski placed fourth and his Penske teammate Joey Logano completed the top five.

Kevin Harvick’s bid for a fourth consecutive race ended when he and Kyle Larson made contact on the backstretch less than 40 laps into the race. The contact forced Harvick into the outside wall. He lost two laps for repairs and was down three laps before the first stage ended on Lap 60.

“I went down to side draft and he was coming up and we touched and it just knocked the thing to the right and spun out,’’ Harvick told Fox Sports. “I don’t know that that’s his fault. I think that’s my fault for coming down the race track right there and trying to side draft and as we touched, it just came back up the race track. Just trying to get a little bit too much right there.

“Just my fault back there.’’

No driver has won four consecutive Cup race since Jimmie Johnson did so in 2007.

Stage 1 winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2 winner: Martin Truex Jr.

How Martin Truex Jr. won: He lost the lead on pit road during the final stop of the day but exited behind Kyle Busch, dueled with the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and pulled away to an easy victory.

Who had a good day: Jimmie Johnson’s ninth-place finish was his first top 10 of the season. It also ended a streak of 10 consecutive races without a top 10. … A week after placing four drivers in the top 10, Joe Gibbs Racing had three cars in the top 10 with Kyle Busch third, Denny Hamlin sixth and Erik Jones seventh. … Austin Dillon placed 10th for his first top-10 result since his Daytona 500 victory.

Who had a bad day: Kevin Harvick saw his chances of a fourth consecutive win end after contact with Kyle Larson early in the race. He finished 35th. … Trevor Bayne hit the wall and finished 37th, the second time in the first five races he’s placed 30th or worse.

Quote of the day: “I didn’t do anything wrong,’’ Kyle Larson said on the radio to his team about the contact with Kevin Harvick.

Notable: Martin Truex Jr.’s victory marked his fourth consecutive top-five finish.

Next: The series goes to Martinsville Speedway for the STP 500 race at 2 p.m. ET on March 25.

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