Jimmie Johnson won the Auto Club 400 on Sunday Afternoon off of an overtime pass of Kevin Harvick, who had dominated the race for most of the day.
Harvick Takes The Lead Early
Austin Dillon led the field to the green flag, but was quickly overpowered by Harvick, who then was in an intense battle for the lead with Carl Edwards in a scenario very similar to the ending of the Phoenix race.
Kurt Busch was the first to have issues, as he went to pit road on Lap nine for a possible tire rub after he clipped the outside wall. Nine laps later, on Lap 19, his brother, Kyle Busch also went to pit road for a possible tire issue.
The first caution of the race came on Lap 26 when Chris Buescher got loose and hit the wall. Teams took advantage of the caution to make pit stops, and when they left pit road, Edwards had jumped to the lead over Harvick.
Edwards led the field back to green on Lap 31, and proceeded to trade the lead with Edwards for the next handful of laps. Eventually, Martin Truex Jr. jumped up to the second position, putting a car between Edwards and Harvick.
Trouble For Kyle Larson
The second caution came out on Lap 48 when Kyle Larson cut a left rear tire, and went hard into the inside safer barrier. He was OK, and walked away from the accident. The teams took advantage of this caution to make another pit stop. Harvick led the race off pit road, and restarted the race with the lead.
Harvick led the field back to green, but momentarily gave it up to Joey Logano. Harvick quickly took the lead back thanks to a push from Truex Jr., who then promptly took the lead from Harvick.
One lap later, Harvick regained the lead, which he held all the way until Lap 70 when he made his third pit stop of the day. It was then Truex Jr. who took over the lead for a few laps until rookie Chase Elliott led for a few laps while the rest of the field made their stops.
When the field had cycled through pit road, Harvick retook the lead, with four fresh tires and a full tank of gas. He came in to pit again around Lap 105, and barley got off before the third caution came out, this one for Trevor Bayne, who hit the outside wall.
The field used this caution to once again make pit stops, with Harvick staying out, which allowed him to lead the field back to the green flag.
Johnson got a great restart, and shot up past Harvick to the lead. Truex Jr. took advantage of the chance to slide up to the second position, and a lap later, Matt Kenseth moved up to third.
The green flag was only out for a short time before Danica Patrick got clipped by Kasey Kahne, hit the wall, and slid into the infield. That brought out the fourth caution of the race.
Harvick Continues To Dominate
Once the field went back to green, Harvick resumed his domination of the race. He was in the lead with 45 to go when the caution came out for debris, setting the field up for their final pit stops of the day, with everybody being within their fuel window.
While the leaders made pit stops, Johnson stayed out and assumed the lead because he had stopped right before the caution.
It was Johnson who led the field to green with just 40 laps to go, with Edwards in second and Logano in third. Edwards took the lead in the first lap, but quickly relinquished it back to Johnson before they got to turn one.
That set up a three car battle for the lead between the drivers, with Harvick and Logano doing most of the battling. Even with the top three battling each other, they were unable to pull away from the rest of the field, as the top six remained close enough to keep the leaders honest.
One Last Caution Halts Harvick's Momentum
Harvick eventually was able to pull away, and had a two second lead over second place with 10 laps to go. That lead extended to three seconds by the time there was five laps to go, and Harvick was well on his way to winning his second race of the season, until Ky. Busch hit the wall with two to go, bringing out the caution.
The leader had not taken the white flag when the caution came out, so that sent the race into overtime. The field did make one final set of pit stops before the green flag, and Denny Hamlin won the race off pit road, setting him up to lead the race to the green flag. Harvick lined up right next to him in the second position.
Johnson got a great restart, and by turn three he had cleared Harvick for the lead. Despite his best efforts, Harvick was unable to regain the lead, and ended up finishing second, as Johnson took home the win, his 77th career win. Hamlin ended up in third place, his third top-five finish this season.
After an off week, the Sprint Cup Series will next be in action on April 3, when they travel to Martinsville Speedway.