NASCAR: Tire problems took the win from Johnson



Tire problems turned Sunday’s Auto Club 400 upside-down for drivers. Kyle Busch took the win in a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the year six laps more than scheduled.

With four fresh tires on the restart on Lap 205, Busch passed Steward-Haas racing teammates Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the second-to-last lap. He brought rookie Kyle Larson with him.

Larson stayed right behind Busch during the final lap when Busch crossed the finish line .214 seconds ahead of him. Larson won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the two-mile race track on Saturday.

This was Busch’s second straight win and third overall at Fontana. This was his first of the season and 29th career win. Kurt Busch finished third and Matt Kenseth, the pole winner, took fourth. Stewart finished fifth.

The top 10 was completed by Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard, and Carl Edwards.

Jimmie Johnson was leading the race up until the final five laps. It looked like he was going to take the win with his impressive lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the race approached the regulation distance of 400 miles.

Sadly, Johnson was unable to keep the lead.

Johnson, who led 104 of the total laps at Fontana, blew his left front tire and took a turn for pit road giving Gordon the lead. There was no caution.

Brad Keselowski suffered his third left rear tire problem one lap later but was able to stay away from other cars resulting in no damage. There was no caution. Marcos Ambrose suffered with a tire failure on the same lap. Once again, no caution.

It seems like the tires may have been the issue on Sunday.

Lastly, Clint Bowyer spun in his Toyota on lap 198 due to a flat left rear tire. NASCAR finally called the caution that created the two-lap dash to the finish line.

The tire issues were not only present at the end of the race. They began during Saturday’s practice sessions. Kevin Harvick caused the first caution on Lap 81 because his left tire blew.

Harvick was in third on Lap 138 when another left rear tire blew and forced him to go to pit road. There was tire debris all over the backstretch, so, NASCAR had to call a caution on Lap 141 while Johnson was in the lead.

Keselowski had two flat left rear tires during practice and had two more during the race but yellow flags saved him in both cases.

He brought his car to pit road under caution with the flat tire, which allowed him to escape a failure at a speed that could have damaged his car or him.

The third time, at the end of the race, dropped him to the 26th position.

Kyle Busch had no tire problems throughout the entire race, though. This points to other teams possibly being overly aggressive in lowering their tire pressures.

That seems kind of strange because it was not only one or two drivers; it was quite a few with the same problem.