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NASCAR Cup Series | Results and 3 takeaways from Sunday’s race at Fontana, California

Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., left, acknowledges Joel Cram, 12 from Anna, Texas, after Joel handed Truex the checkered flag for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif. With Truex’s playoff ticket punched, the No. 78 team can be aggressive hasing stage points and wins the rest of the season.
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., left, acknowledges Joel Cram, 12 from Anna, Texas, after Joel handed Truex the checkered flag for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif. With Truex’s playoff ticket punched, the No. 78 team can be aggressive hasing stage points and wins the rest of the season. AP

Martin Truex Jr. won the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, his first win this season, but there are other implications from the race as well. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway:

1. The champ was bound to break through eventually

There was never any doubt that Truex was going to win at some point this season. But like he did last year en route to winning his first Cup Series championship, it's nice to get it out of the way early. Truex's first win of 2017 also came on NASCAR's early-season trip out West, so there's another parallel. But what this means is now the No. 78 team, which also won the first two stages Sunday, can be aggressive the rest of the season in chasing stage points and wins. Truex's playoff ticket is punched – now the question is how big of a boost they can give themselves.

2. Kevin Harvick is still good as ever, but it's odd that...

In the two races he hasn't won this season, he's finished outside the top 30. A crash at Daytona was explainable, and he had another wreck Sunday in California, but still. As a result, he's just eighth in the standings despite having won three races. Nobody expects Harvick to keep crashing out of races or winning them, but for the time being, it puts him in an interesting place on the leaderboard.

3. Could this be the start of a trend?

No driver is ever going to rip 10 or 11 wins in a row in today's NASCAR environment, but Harvick's three wins in a row certainly made it seem like a reality. Instead, Truex's win provided a return back to the real world for NASCAR drivers and fans – before long, all the regulars are going to get their wins. Kyle Busch is close. Kyle Larson, too. Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, you name it – playoff spots are going to start going, and fast. That's the way it was always going to be, but after Truex's win, we're off and running.

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Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. runs with the checkered flag after winning Sunday’s Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. JAMES QUIGG AP

Auto Club 400 results

The full race results, from the Associated Press:

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup

Sunday, March 18, 2018

At Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, Calif.

Lap length: 2.00 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 200 laps, 60 points.

2. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 2043.

3. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, 51.

4. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 49.

5. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, 45.

6. (25) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200, 39.

7. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 200, 39.

8. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200, 29.

9. (33) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200, 38.

10. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, 27.

11. (26) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 199, 30.

12. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 199, 25.

13. (28) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 199, 24.

14. (7) Kurt Busch, Ford, 199, 27.

15. (29) William Byron, Chevrolet, 199, 23.

16. (31) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 199, 21.

17. (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 199, 20.

18. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 199, 19.

19. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 199, 18.

20. (19) Darrell Wallace Jr, Chevrolet, 199, 17.

21. (9) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 199, 16.

22. (32) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 199, 15.

23. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 199, 14.

24. (34) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 199, 13.

25. (21) David Ragan, Ford, 199, 12.

26. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 199, 11.

27. (17) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 198, 10.

28. (37) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 198, 9.

29. (36) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 198, 0.

30. (12) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 197, 7.

31. (18) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 196, 6.

32. (20) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 194, 5.

33. (35) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 193, 0.

34. (24) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 193, 3.

35. (10) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 191, 2.

36. (23) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 189, 1.

37. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, accident, 108, 1.

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Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., background, passes Kyle Busch during the late laps of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. WILL LESTER AP

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 147.528 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 42 minutes, 41 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 11.685 Seconds seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 21 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M.Truex 1-10. Ky.Busch 11-28. J.McMurray 29. Ky.Busch 30. M.Truex 31-63. J.Logano 64-72. M.Truex 73-89. Ky.Busch 90-93. M.Truex 94-123. Ky.Busch 124-130. K.Kahne 131. W.Byron 132. Ky.Busch 133-160. M.Truex 161-163. D.Hamlin 164. Ky.Busch 165-168. M.Truex 169-200

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 6 times for 119 laps. Ky.Busch, 6 times for 56 laps. J.Logano, 1 time for 8 laps. W.Byron, 1 time for 0 laps. D.Hamlin, 1 time for 0 laps. K.Kahne, 1 time for 0 laps. J.McMurray, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: K.Harvick, 3. A.Dillon, 1. M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 216. 2. Ky.Busch, 207. 3. J.Logano, 197. 4. B.Keselowski, 183. 5. R.Blaney, 181. 6. D.Hamlin, 176. 7. K.Larson, 174. 8. K.Harvick, 170. 9. C.Bowyer, 155. 10. A.Almirola, 148. 11. Ku.Busch, 144. 12. A.Dillon, 141. 13. E.Jones, 132. 14. R.Newman, 117. 15. A.Bowman, 115. 16. P.Menard, 115.

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Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. (78) celebrates after winning Sunday’s Auto Club 400 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Chris Owens/Asp Inc/ASP TNS

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.

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