The NASCAR Cup Series visited Auto Club Speedway in Southern California for the second race of its season, the WISE Power 400. The first stop on NASCAR’s West Coast swing delivered silver-screen drama and wheel-to-wheel action.
Penske’s Austin Cindric, the winner of last Sunday’s Daytona 500, started from pole, but Petty GMS’ Erik Jones took the lead and led the first ten laps. The protagonist for most of the race’s distance Tyler Reddick in the #8 Richard Childress Racing Chevy Camaro, passed Jones on lap 11. There was a scheduled competition caution on lap 20, but on lap 15, Kyle Busch spun out on the exit of turn two and brought out the yellow earlier than expected.
Halfway through the first stage, Hendrick’s Chase Elliott ran into trouble while running in the lead and high up against the wall in turn four. His Camaro slid out from under him, and in correcting the slide, he clattered up into the wall. Elliott yielded the lead back to Reddick as he recollected himself. Though, he eventually brought out a caution several laps later after he spun out in turn two.
Tyler Reddick won the first stage while dealing with an unusual issue. His left leg went numb. Reddick believes he “did too many squats and deadlifts during the offseason,” and his legs became too large for his safety harness. His crew loosened his straps and gave him ibuprofen to deal with the problem.
The second of three stages began with a three-way scrap between Reddick, Stewart-Haas’ Chase Briscoe and Hendrick’s Kyle Larson. It was a real display of the racing promised with the Next Gen car. Cars were fanned out across the racing surface from the apron to the outside wall.
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The race seemed to be under the complete control of Tyler Reddick until lap 152 of 200. On the entry into turn one, Reddick blew a tire but kept control of his car. Then, things got worse. Hendrick’s William Byron got loose as he passed Reddick and slid directly into Reddick. The crash took Byron out of the race and sent Reddick laps down.
Byron’s teammates Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman made their way to the front, but things quickly imploded for the team as a whole. Bowman put his car into the outside wall. And with 20 laps to go, Larson literally put Elliott into the wall as they were three-wide on the front straight. Elliot would spin a few laps later to bring out the race’s final caution.
In the few laps left, defending champion Kyle Larson fought off Trackhouse’s Daniel Suárez and RCR’s Austin Dillion to win the WISE Power 400. While Larson might celebrate taking his first Cup Series win of 2022, he’s going to have to better explain why he moved up the track into his teammate.