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Busch took his first lead on Lap 22 and lost it a few times on green-flag pit stops, but was back out front within a few laps, pulling away on each of the four restarts.
He just didn't have enough left after the leaders stayed out on the last caution, spoiling his chance to pull off the NASCAR weekend sweep two weeks in a row.
"It's real unfortunate and disappointing and frustrating all in one that we weren't able to seal the deal today," Busch said. "You ask a little bit more from your race car at the last moments and it just doesn't have anything left to give. We were just a sitting duck waiting for those guys to go around us."
Johnson looked as if he were going to notch his fourth win in six starts at California. He started 16th and worked his way toward the front, tracking Busch down for the late pass after losing a race off the line to him on the final restart.
Johnson just couldn't hold off Harvick on those final two turns, earning another solid finish at Auto Club Speedway that he had hoped would be one place higher.
"Looking back, maybe if I could have got by Kyle a lot earlier, maybe it could have made a difference," Johnson said. "But he (Harvick) was rolling off the top really, really fast."
Pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya never had much of a chance at winning his first oval race. A two-time winner on road courses, he led the first six laps, but wasn't a factor after that, drifting deeper into the field before making a late charge to finish 10th.
Other than Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing had a forgetful day thanks to more engine problems.
Joey Logano qualified third, but had to start at the back of the pack after switching engines. He finished 25th. Denny Hamlin qualified second and led 15 laps early before dropping back quickly after engine problems hit around Lap 80. He had to go off at the race's midpoint and never made it back.
JGR has now had engine problems in all five races this season.
"We've got to get these engine problems worked out," a discouraged Hamlin said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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