Then, Kevin Harvick edged Hamlin’s teammate Carl Edwards at Phoenix – by that same .010 seconds margin.
Two races, both ranking in the top 10 among the closest finishes in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history. In fact, the average margin of victory this NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is 0.232 seconds – the closest MOV since NASCAR implemented electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
Oddly, despite top-five finishes and laps led in each of the first four races, none of those finishes have involved Kyle Busch, another member of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable.
Count on that changing this weekend.
When Brad Keselowski visited Victory Lane at Auto Club last year after leading only the last lap, Busch – who took the checkered flag there the previous two seasons – did not get to race for his third straight win because he missed the contest with a broken right leg and fractured left foot.
Sidelined no more, Busch will get the chance to unseat Keselowski and bring home his third win in as many starts at Auto Club victory in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
“The finishes of both of those races were pretty exciting,” Busch said about his last two Southern California starts. “Of course, I won both so that makes it even better for me. The track is just down the road from Toyota Racing Development (TRD) headquarters and our wins there were the first two Sprint Cup wins for them at their hometown track.”
Prior to his two wins, Busch finished second at Auto Club in 2012 and third there in 2011. He enters Sunday’s contest on an eight-race top-five finish streak. The 2015 NSCS champion leads the points standings, but is still searching for his first win of the season.
“(Auto Club is) a fast racetrack and you just have to be able to carry a lot of speed through the corners,” Busch said. “You’re in the corner for a long time, but the more speed you carry through the turn, the better it makes your straightaways. It’s a big, fast racetrack and I’m hoping we can get M&M’S their first win during their 75th anniversary celebration year.”
Keselowski, who two weeks ago passed Busch with five laps remaining to capture his first win of the season at Las Vegas, has similar plans.
“I’m looking forward to coming back as the defending race winner,” Keselowski said. “That’s always an honor, something you take a lot of pride in, and you think about last year’s events throughout the weekend. I’m excited about that.
“Of course I want to win it again, so we have to keep our heads down and stay focused as well.”