Auto Club winners and losers

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A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway…

WINNERS

Kyle LarsonHe may have missed out on a Daytona 500 victory, but Larson’s 17th career victory extends a remarkable run. Larson won four of the final five races of 2021, including the season finale at Phoenix Raceway to claim his first Cup championship. After winning the Daytona 500 pole but crashing out in Florida, the California native rebounded with a powerful performance late at Auto Club to head back to victory lane.

Austin DillonDillon had the quieter day of the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolets but certainly the best result. The 2018 Daytona 500 champion capitalized on late restarts and a fast car to finish second, his first top five at Auto Club in eight starts and first overall since the Daytona 500 in 2021.

Erik JonesJones led 18 laps on Sunday before finishing third, doubling the his laps-led count from last year in one race. The No. 43 Petty GMS Motorsports team was stout all weekend, notching a second-place starting spot in qualifying.

Daniel SuarezWhile he is surely disappointed he didn’t win the race, Suarez was outstanding in the final laps of Sunday’s race. His fourth-place finish ties his best finish with Trackhouse Racing, which he earned at last year’s Bristol Dirt race.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick began the weekend by backing his No. 4 Ford into the Turn 4 wall, spinning within the first two minutes of Saturday’s practice. The team thrashed to repair his primary car and Harvick repaid them by wheeling it up to a seventh-place finish.

Daniel Hemric: After starting fifth and finishing ninth, Hemric turned in what looks like an average started-well, finished-well kind of day. But the defending Xfinity Series champion overcame a broken shifter that put him six laps down and rallied to his third career top-10 finish.

Kyle Busch: Busch 14th-place finish is nearly as unbelievable as Hemric’s recovery. Within the first 85 laps, Busch spun (Lap 15), overheated (Lap 37) and had a flat left-rear tire (lap 84), the lattermost happening while Busch was 34th and four laps down. Through wavearounds and free passes, Busch eventually worked his way back to a top-15 finish.

LOSERS

Tyler ReddickWhat could have been for Reddick… The two-time Xfinity champion led a race-high 90 laps — no one else led more than 28 — but a flat left-rear tire while leading at Lap 152 derailed his chances to win. Contact from William Byron knocked Reddick into the wall and damaged the suspension, relegating Reddick to a 24th-place finish.

William Byron: On the other end of that debacle was Byron, who lost control of his No. 24 Chevrolet while trying to avoid Reddick and instead slid right into Reddick’s door. That sent Byron into the wall and out of the race, collecting his second DNF in two races this season.

Chase ElliottIt’s hard to blame Elliott for being livid on his radio after teammate Kyle Larson walled him in a battle for the lead with 21 laps to go. After rebounding from a Lap 37 spin that put him two laps down, Elliott darted to the outside of Larson along the frontstretch while Larson battled Logano for the lead. Larson didn’t know Elliott was there and instead put Elliott into the wall. The 2020 Cup champ later spun with eight to go and finished 26th, two laps down.

Brad KeselowskiKeselowski didn’t have a good day as a driver or owner on Sunday. Lap 110 saw his RFK Racing teammate Chris Buescher cut a left rear tire and spin driver-side into the Turn 2 wall, sending him home 35th. Keselowski spun twice — once at Lap 116 and again at Lap 157, the latter from contact with Bubba Wallace that also collected Harrison Burton.

Chase BriscoeBriscoe was in the mix early and often in Fontana, leading twice for 20 laps Sunday. But contact late with Kurt Busch seemed to alter Briscoe’s handling, sending the No. 14 Ford into a backslide he never quite recovered from en route to a 16th-place finish.