Fontana, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Brad Keselowski led only one lap -- the final one -- to win Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race in thrilling fashion at Auto Club Speedway.
The Auto Club 400 featured two green-white-checkered finish attempts. Kurt Busch, the pole sitter, led the way for the final restart with two laps to go, but after completing the penultimate lap, Keselowski moved to the inside of Busch and then passed him for the lead between turns 1 and 2.
Greg Biffle wrecked on the frontstretch during the last lap, but NASCAR did not display the caution flag, allowing the field to finish the race under green.
Busch attempted to reclaim the lead, but coming out of the final turn, he bounced off of the wall, which helped Kevin Harvick, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and defending Sprint Cup champion, grab the second position.
Keselowski beat Harvick to the finish line by 0.7 seconds for his first win of the season and the 17th of his Sprint Cup career. Busch ended up finishing third after leading a race-high 65 laps.
During a round of pit stops in the closing laps, Keselowski made a four-tire change while the other front runners, including Busch and Harvick, changed just two tires.
"It was really an up-and-down day for sure," Keselowski said. "At the end, we caught some breaks, made the most of the breaks we caught. That was kind of the story of our race."
Keselowski became the fourth driver to virtually assure himself a spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He joins his Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano, as well as Jimmie Johnson and Harvick.
It's the first time that Keselowski has won a Sprint Cup race at this two-mile Southern California track. He had finished no better than 18th in his previous six starts here.
"The last two years here, we've had great race cars and just everything kind of fell apart on us at the end," he said. "You're left looking around saying, 'How did that happen?' Today, we're looking and saying, 'How did that happen?' But in a good way.
"That's how it works sometimes. I'm not really sure I know why. Maybe there's a life lesson in there."
Harvick had won the last two races -- Las Vegas and Phoenix -- and was trying for a sweep in NASCAR's three-week West Coast swing. Harvick has now finished either first or second in eight consecutive races, a streak dating back to last season. Richard Petty holds the record in NASCAR's top series for most consecutive top-two finishes with 11, set in 1975.
"I hate that the 41 (Busch) wasn't able to hold on for the win there," Harvick said. "I would have loved to see those guys get their first win.
"You never know how the strategy is going to play out here. There's so many cars on the lead lap. You didn't want to get buried in there. One little bad move for Brad, he would have been stuck in the middle of that traffic. But it all worked out for him. The second restart, he was in prime position up on the outside with fresh tires."
Busch scored his second-straight top-five finish after missing the first three races this season due to a NASCAR suspension for an alleged act of domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend last September in Dover, Delaware. No criminal charges were filed against him. Last week at Phoenix, Busch finished fifth in his season debut.
"It was a solid day," Busch said. "I don't know what we could have done different. We just got pinned in by the yellows and the sequence at the end on which tires we needed to have to optimize how many laps were left. We had two tires. Keselowski had four. We didn't need that extra yellow at the end, and I just got out-muscled by Keselowski."
Busch's last race win in Sprint Cup occurred one year ago at Martinsville. The series will be at that half-mile short track in Virginia next weekend.
Paul Menard finished fourth, followed by Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Logano. Martin Truex Jr., Johnson and Jeff Gordon completed the top-10.
All 43 cars finished this race, marking the first time that has happen in Sprint Cup since the 2013 Brickyard 400. Thirty-two cars finished on the 209th and final lap.