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Busch wins battle of Kyles in California

This time Kyle Busch comes out on top over Larson
Sunday, March 23, 2014

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Kyle Busch
Getty Images for NASCAR
In Saturday's Nationwide race at Auto Club Raceway Kyle Larson outdueled Kyle Busch for the win, but on Sunday in the Sprint Cup Auto Club 400 it was Busch who beat rookie Larson to the flag.  Of course it was Jimmie Johnson who led the most laps and was pulling away for the win before his Goodyear tire blew with only 7 laps to go. 

Goodyear tires were blowing up all day long so it came as no shock that Johnson ended up 24th. 

Kyle Busch avoided a myriad of tire issues among the field to hold on and grab his second-straight Auto Club 400 win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Sunday.

The victory is the Joe Gibbs Racing driver's first of the season. He joins Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards among those who've virtually punched their tickets to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Busch held off rookie Kyle Larson -- who took home his first Nationwide Series victory Saturday -- on the final green-white-checkered restart.

Larson was trailed by Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart to complete the top-five.

Harvick had a tire go down early in the race to bring out the first caution of the day, taking on some right side damage to his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Luckily for him, there was plenty of race left and he recovered to make it back into the top three later in the race, but had another left rear go down with 62 laps remaining. He finished 36th.

Jimmie Johnson was robbed of an almost certain victory because of Goodyear's exploding tires
Harold Hinson for Chevy
Before the race even hit 50 laps, Earnhardt Jr.'s front left tire went down, putting him into the wall for some minor right side damage. Earnhardt made it back up to the top 10 but eventually fell back to finish 12th.

Stewart spun out and took some damage on Lap 56 but recovered for his second straight top-five finish.

Brian Scott and Aric Almirola got into each other before the midway point of the race, ending Almirola's day.

“It's pretty obvious what happened. The 33 (of Scott) was obviously a dart without feathers and coming across the race track," said Almirola. "He ran right into me. It's a shame for our Farmland team, our Ford Fusion was getting a lot better. We didn't start off the race like we had wanted to but got it a lot better. Man, he came from all the way at the bottom of the race track and ran into me. He's not even racing this series for points. He's out there having fun because his daddy gets to pay for it and he wrecked us. That’s frustrating.”

Parker Kligerman hit the wall on Lap 85 after making contact with Casey Mears. Kligerman later took to Twitter to express his frustration, saying: "The 13 car dumped me for no reason. Was having an AWESOME day. Never been through anything like the last (two) months."

Only minutes before the start of the race, Joe Gibbs Racing officials announced that driver Denny Hamlin was not medically cleared to race because of a sinus infection that is causing vision problems. Sam Hornish Jr. drove the No. 11 FedEx Toyota in his place and finished 17th.

Joey Logano -- who battled with Hamlin down to the wire at Auto Club last year -- had a rear end gear failure and finished 39th.

Last week's winner, Edwards, spun out at one point, putting him a lap down. He came back to finish 10th.

Edwards took over the Sprint Cup Series points lead; he now has 186, one more than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position:  1st

How amazing was this race finish?
“I think the fans won today, too.  Holy cow, what do you expect when you get a green-white-checkered finish and everybody has to come down pit road for tires.  That right there is a ‘Days of Thunder’ thing right there.  There was two laps to go and everybody is going to pit.  Unbelievable day.  I can’t say enough about Interstate Batteries, M&M’s and Toyota of course -- awesome today to be here again in their home town.  And of course Sprint, appreciate them helping us with this sport.  Monster Energy Drink -- nothing greater than this to keep the party going all night long and of course the fans.  Hopefully they’re celebrating with us.”

What were the final laps like for you with the green-white-checkered finish?
“Man oh man.  The first thing that comes to mind when the caution came out with just a few laps to go -- that was total Rowdy Burns ‘Days of Thunder’ right there.  There’s a couple laps to go -- I'm not pitting.  Everybody has to pit, Cole (Trickle), we’re coming down for four tires because there’s a green-white-checkered coming.  I knew four tires was going to win the race, so I’m glad Dave (Rogers, crew chief) called that.  There was some great racing up front between Tony (Stewart) and Kurt (Busch) there -- it was really interesting to watch that.  I went into turn one thinking I’m going to run the middle and then Tony started sliding off the bottom and I’m like, ‘Nope, not having it.’  I had to get some brake and cut my car to the left and drove underneath him and got him cleared off turn two and I was able to keep Kyle Larson behind me.  Man, what a shoe that boy is.  If he would have gotten alongside of me it would have been a whale of a race.  I drove off into turn three, but I heard car inside on my left.  If he drove it in further than I did, Jesus must have told him to stop.  I just can’t say enough about all these guys on this Interstate Batteries Toyota team.  What an awesome race this track produced.  I just can’t believe it.  I thank the Lord for putting ourselves here and getting us locked in the Chase.”

Did you have any close calls with tires during the race?
“No, I never felt anything wrong with ours.  I know Dave (Rogers, crew chief) said that something was wrong with our left rear at one time, but I never felt anything and it made it the run we needed it to be while a couple other guys had problems.  All in all we had a good safe day for our team -- no issues and then we came home with a win.”

DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Why did you decide to make a pit stop during the final caution?

“It was really the only decision.  You knew a lot of people were going to take tires.  You knew there would be a couple that would try two or try none, but early in the race the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car stayed out and in a lap he was back in 20th.  You knew how it was going to play out.  The pit crew just did a phenomenal job, every stop the pit crew was on it so we had a lot of confidence coming down pit road knowing that we could take four and give Kyle (Busch) good track position and we knew if Kyle had good track position, he could handle the rest, so it worked out great.

JOE GIBBS, owner, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What does it mean for your race team to get their first victory of the season?
“Well, we are thrilled.  Kyle (Busch), obviously we got the perfect person driving the car.  I’m going up and down pit road, and what I would say there is our pit crew and the whole team.  Dave (Rogers, crew chief), you guys just fought their heart out all day long.  We bounced back and forth between second, third, fourth, sixth, somewhere in there, and for that last pit stop I was concerned for the 18 because we were pitting in the middle of pit road and so many things can happen there.  Matt (Kenseth), I felt like he did a good job, he was down there in (turn) 1, but it was just a great day for all of us, and I would say it was really a total team effort, and then you’ve got the perfect person driving the car.  It’s hard to beat Kyle with something like that.  We were thrilled.  Interstate Batteries, what can you say for Norm (Miller) and Kyle’s two wins here last year and this year were thrilling.  Toyota, it’s a big week for us, we’re out here with them and it's a home base for TRD (Toyota Racing Development).  We love our partnership with them, we get to spend a couple days out here and tear up some turf on the golf course and everything else.  We’re thrilled.  We had a great time.  By the way, I want to say the crowd, awesome.  The crowd packed the place.  It was hard to get in here this morning and we appreciate everybody in Southern California coming out.”

Do you have an update on Denny Hamlin?
“Yeah, right now Denny (Hamlin) left immediately, right as the race started, went to the hospital, and I think they’re still running tests.  So I think it’ll probably be later on before we get any results.”

Results

Pos No. Driver Make Start Laps Laps Led Status
1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 14 206 4 Running
2 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 11 206 0 Running
3 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 17 206 0 Running
4 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 1 206 19 Running
5 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 10 206 0 Running
6 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 25 206 0 Running
7 55 Brian Vickers Toyota 19 206 1 Running
8 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet 18 206 0 Running
9 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 30 206 0 Running
10 99 Carl Edwards Ford 9 206 0 Running
11 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 20 206 0 Running
12 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 15 206 0 Running
13 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 6 206 15 Running
14 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 27 206 0 Running
15 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet 31 206 0 Running
16 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5 206 2 Running
17 11 Sam Hornish Jr Toyota 13 206 0 Running
18 26 Cole Whitt Toyota 34 206 0 Running
19 7 Michael Annett Chevrolet 23 206 0 Running
20 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 16 206 3 Running
21 36 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 36 206 1 Running
22 23 Alex Bowman Toyota 40 206 0 Running
23 78 Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 12 206 0 Running
24 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 3 206 56 Running
25 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 43 205 1 Running
26 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 2 205 38 Running
27 34 David Ragan Ford 41 205 1 Running
28 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 28 205 0 Running
29 35 David Reutimann Ford 33 205 0 Running
30 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 8 205 0 Running
31 83 Ryan Truex Toyota 39 205 0 Running
32 66 Joe Nemechek Toyota 42 205 1 Running
33 32 Travis Kvapil Ford 35 205 0 Running
34 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 22 204 0 Running
35 33 Brian Scott Chevrolet 37 204 0 Running
36 4 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 4 204 0 Running
37 98 Josh Wise Chevrolet 38 204 0 Running
38 38 David Gilliland Ford 29 202 1 Running
39 22 Joey Logano Ford 7 195 0 Running
40 16 Greg Biffle Ford 24 193 0 Running
41 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 26 180 0 Running
42 30 Parker Kligerman Toyota 32 85 0 Accident
43 43 Aric Almirola Ford 21 68 0 Accident

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