Kyle Busch wins again at Fontana after wild finish

Kyle Busch wins again at Fontana after wild finish

Credit: Ed Szczepanski/USA Today Sports Images

Kyle Busch wins again at Fontana after wild finish

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 23 at 4:37 PM

FONTANA, Calif. -- Kyle Busch won at Fontana for the second straight year Sunday, holding off Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and his older brother Kurt on a frantic two-lap sprint to the finish.

Kyle Busch capably blocked Larson and outlasted Stewart and Kurt Busch to win a wacky race featuring a track-record 35 lead changes and numerous tire problems. With his 29th career Sprint Cup victory in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kyle Busch is NASCAR's fifth winner in five races already this season.

"Holy cow, what do you expect when you've got a green-white-checkered finish and everybody has to come down pit road and put four tires on?" Busch asked after his third career win at Fontana. "That was `Days of Thunder' right there. Unbelievable day."

Jimmie Johnson was comfortably in front when he blew a tire with seven laps left, precipitating the wild finish. Jeff Gordon moved in front until Clint Bowyer spun with two laps to go, setting up an overtime finish.

Gordon was hoping to finish on old tires when Bowyer spun, but then elected to pit along with most of the leaders. Kurt Busch gambled with just two tires, allowing him to restart in second, but his younger brother came up from fifth in the final two laps to win.

"I came off the fourth turn in disbelief that we won this thing, because we were mediocre all day," Kyle Busch said. "It was really weird for us, not a race that we're typically used to. But now there's a load off your shoulders that you can go out the rest of the season and race the way you want to."

He barely held off Larson, the 21-year-old rookie who held off Kyle Busch on Saturday to win the Nationwide race.

"I don't know where everybody went, but I somehow ended up in second and it entered my mind, `We might sweep the weekend,"' Larson said.

He had to settle for the best finish of his Sprint Cup career in the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Kyle Busch, who went to Larson's car Saturday to congratulate him on his Nationwide win, pointed out his window at Larson after Sunday's finish, pumping his fist in approval.

"What a shoe that boy is," Kyle Busch said of Larson.

Several teams had serious tire problems on this weathered 2-mile oval, with multiple flats and cautions for various problems throughout the hot afternoon.

The problems likely were the latest effect of NASCAR's new aero rules, which are producing higher speeds that lead to extra stress on the tires -- particularly on the bumpy asphalt on Fontana's back straightaway, which already wears out tires aggressively.

Those problems might frustrate pit crews, but they can also lead to phenomenal racing, as the sellout crowd on its feet for the finish could attest.

"By no means is this a problem for Goodyear," Kurt Busch said, referring to NASCAR's tire manufacturer. "It's just a thumbs-up for NASCAR for allowing teams to get aggressive in all areas."

The intrigue and weirdness started early on at Fontana -- which somehow seemed appropriate for a race in which the Muppets' Gonzo told the drivers to start their engines.

Several drivers complained during an early pit stop that the red light was on, indicating pit road was closed. Gordon, Bowyer and Brad Keselowski did not pit because of the red light, and all were adamant NASCAR needed to correct their position in the running order.

It's the second consecutive week an issue with the caution light affected the race: At Bristol last Sunday, someone in the flagstand leaned on the button that turned the caution lights on right before Carl Edwards took the white flag. Rain then began to fall heavily, and the race could not be resumed, so Edwards won under caution.

Edwards finished 10th at Fontana and stayed one point ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 12th, for the overall points lead.

Fontana didn't get a repeat of last year's exciting duel between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, the unfriendly rivals who crashed into each other on the final lap while racing for the win.

Hamlin was a last-minute scratch with a sinus infection, depriving him of the self-described chance for redemption after getting airlifted away from the track last year with a broken vertebra. Sam Hornish Jr. took his place in the No. 11 JGR Toyota and finished 17th.

Logano, in a backup car after a crash earlier in the week, had to go to the garage after 114 laps, knocking him out of contention. He finished 39th.


   1. (14) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 206 laps, 123.1 rating, 47 points.
   2. (11) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 206, 89.4, 42.
   3. (17) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 206, 104.5, 42.
   4. (1) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 206, 117.1, 41.
   5. (10) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 206, 82.2, 39.
   6. (25) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 206, 95.7, 38.
   7. (19) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 206, 111.9, 38.
   8. (18) A J Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 206, 86.7, 36.
   9. (30) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 206, 84.1, 35.
   10. (9) Carl Edwards, Ford, 206, 88.4, 34.
   11. (20) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 206, 74.4, 33.
   12. (15) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 206, 83.6, 32.
   13. (6) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 206, 114, 32.
   14. (27) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 206, 63.9, 30.
   15. (31) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 206, 67.7, 29.
   16. (5) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 206, 100.5, 29.
   17. (13) Sam Hornish Jr., Toyota, 206, 66.6, 0.
   18. (34) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 206, 53.3, 26.
   19. (23) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 206, 59.5, 25.
   20. (16) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 206, 86.7, 25.
   21. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 206, 42.3, 24.
   22. (40) Alex Bowman, Toyota, 206, 46.9, 22.
   23. (12) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 206, 55.9, 21.
   24. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 206, 127.4, 22.
   25. (43) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 205, 43, 0.
   26. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 205, 94.2, 19.
   27. (41) David Ragan, Ford, 205, 39.1, 18.
   28. (28) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 205, 49.4, 16.
   29. (33) David Reutimann, Ford, 205, 36.7, 16.
   30. (8) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 205, 63.9, 14.
   31. (39) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 205, 31.3, 13.
   32. (42) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 205, 30.4, 0.
   33. (35) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 205, 30.9, 11.
   34. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 204, 56.5, 10.
   35. (37) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 204, 37.3, 0.
   36. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 204, 82.7, 8.
   37. (38) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 204, 44.2, 7.
   38. (29) David Gilliland, Ford, 202, 35.6, 7.
   39. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 195, 72.1, 5.
   40. (24) Greg Biffle, Ford, 193, 62.9, 4.
   41. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 180, 70, 3.
   42. (32) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, accident, 85, 43.4, 2.
   43. (21) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 68, 53, 1.
   ------
Race Statistics
   Average Speed of Race Winner: 132.981 mph.
   Time of Race: 3 hours, 5 minutes, 57 seconds.
   Margin of Victory: 0.214 seconds.
   Caution Flags: 9 for 42 laps.
   Lead Changes: 35 among 15 drivers.
   Lap Leaders: B.Keselowski 1-9; C.Bowyer 10; B.Keselowski 11-20; D.Ragan 21; B.Keselowski 22; Ky.Busch 23-26; B.Keselowski 27-43; D.Gilliland 44; L.Cassill 45; J.Johnson 46; B.Vickers 47; J.Johnson 48-57; C.Bowyer 58; B.Keselowski 59; J.Johnson 60-70; R.Newman 71-73; M.Kenseth 74-83; J.Johnson 84-86; M.Kenseth 87; J.Nemechek 88; M.Kenseth 89-90; J.Johnson 91-105; J.Gordon 106-119; R.Sorenson 120; M.Kenseth 121-126; J.Johnson 127-142; J.Gordon 143; D.Reutimann 144; J.Johnson 145-167; J.Gordon 168; J.Johnson 169-193; J.Gordon 194-200; L.Cassill 201-203; Ku.Busch 204-205; Ky.Busch 206.
   Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): J.Johnson, 8 times for 104 laps; B.Keselowski, 5 times for 38 laps; J.Gordon, 4 times for 23 laps; M.Kenseth, 4 times for 19 laps; Ky.Busch, 2 times for 5 laps; L.Cassill, 2 times for 4 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 3 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 2 laps; C.Bowyer, 2 times for 2 laps; B.Vickers, 1 time for 1 lap; R.Sorenson, 1 time for 1 lap; D.Ragan, 1 time for 1 lap; D.Reutimann, 1 time for 1 lap; J.Nemechek, 1 time for 1 lap; D.Gilliland, 1 time for 1 lap.
   Wins: Ky.Busch, 1; D.Earnhardt Jr., 1; C.Edwards, 1; K.Harvick, 1; Bra.Keselowski, 1.
   Top 12 in Points: 1. C.Edwards, 186; 2. D.Earnhardt Jr., 185; 3. J.Gordon, 184; 4. Bra.Keselowski, 182; 5. M.Kenseth, 179; 6. J.Johnson, 165; 7. Ky.Busch, 158; 8. R.Newman, 150; 9. A.Dillon, 150; 10. J.Logano, 146; 11. D.Hamlin, 140; 12. J.McMurray, 138.
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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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