Using a better jump on an overtime restart, Jimmie Johnson passed Kevin Harvick to win the Auto Club 400 Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
Harvick dominated leading a race-high 142 laps and was comfortably ahead until Kyle Busch blew a tire and hit the wall to cause a caution with five to go that tightened the field and setup a two-lap overtime finish.
After pit stops, Denny Hamlin, Harvick and Jimmie Johnson held the first three position, but on the ensuing restart Harvick and Johnson quickly went by Hamlin with Johnson then driving alongside and passing Harvick down the backstretch. He then pulled to win for the second time in 2016 and the 77th of his career.
"I got a great run off of Turn 2 and I thought, ‘Man I've got a shot at this thing,' which I didn't expect to have, Harvick had been so fast," Johnson said of his winning pass. "I cleared him and kind of got away. We saved our best for last for sure."
Harvick finished second, with Hamlin third, Joey Logano fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. fifth. A Harvick victory would have been his second in as many weeks, but for the ninth time in the past 14 races he and Johnson have finished 1-2 Harvick had to settle for runner-up.
"We weren't good on the restarts for four or five laps unless we were by ourselves," Harvick said. "We weren't able to drive it in like I needed to. Just didn't have the front tires turning, and then the back wouldn't grip. Still a good day for us."
As expected, Fontana's aged bumpy surface combined with a low downforce aerodynamic package produced an entertaining event with side-by-side racing commonplace and drivers able to make passes.
Largely brought about by teams electing to run low air pressures, several drivers experienced tire failures Sunday. Most notably Busch, the defending series champion who had finished fifth or better in every race this season, and Kyle Larson, whose left-rear tire exploded while running at speed down the backstretch and caused him to slam head-on into an inside wall. Larson walked away from the savage crash under his power and was uninjured.
Another incident saw Kasey Kahne clip the rear of Danica Patrick's car and turn her into the outside wall along the frontstretch. Patrick was unhurt, but expressed her displeasure by walking towards the track and gesturing at Kahne as he circled under caution.
The Sprint Cup Series enters its first off week of the season, with its next race April 3 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.