Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick clearly had the fastest cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana on Saturday evening and as they took turns leading for a total of 112 laps between them it was a given that one of them would lead to the checkered flag. Meanwhile Kyle Busch was ruing that he had nothing better than a third-place car to race against them.
From time to time Busch challenged the leaders but was only shown as first across the line on lap 69. That was until a round of green flag pitstops towards the end of the race. Busch found himself leading with seventeen to go and needed to pit himself on lap 137. He was the only one to opt for changing just the two right hand tyres and that brought him off pitlane five seconds ahead of Carl Edwards.
For the remaining thirteen laps Edwards, and Harvick, chased the no. 18 Toyota down but simpy ran out of time and it was Busch who claimed, amongst other achievements, his third successive win in the Nationwide Series at the Auto Club Speedway, the seventh consecutive win for Joe Gibbs Racing at the Fontana track, his third consecutive Series win and his total wins in the Nationwide Series to 46, just three short of the record held by eighth place finisher, Mark Martin.
“I think it's pretty satisfying when you can win one like that,” Busch said. “I mean, it's great to go out there and kick everybody's butt and win the race and just come to the media center and go home. But today, it's a little bit more fun. I don't know why, but it's like you're working your butt off all day long, and it's like, 'Aw, man, it's going to be a third today. That kind of stings, but it's still decent.' And then you end up making a pit call like that, where nobody else does it, and you're like, 'Damn, we're going to win this thing,' and you get all jacked up.”
Both Harvick and Edwards were quick to admit they hadn’t considered opting for two tyres instead of four. “Two tires never even crossed my mind,” Harvick said. “If I had to do it again, I'd probably pit earlier and probably get on pit road a little harder. Whether it would have changed the outcome or not, I don't know. Still a good day for us.”
For Edwards the biggest disappointment was that the finish wasn’t as close as it could have been. “I guess it's a little bit of shame that it didn't come down to a real battle at the end, but it very well could have. A little bit of a slower stop on Kyle's car or a caution or something like that, and it was going to be an insane finish.”
With Joey Logano finishing in seventh and Brad Keselowski tenth six of the top ten places went to non point-scoring drivers which is becoming the norm this year as the change in points allocation is proving to be no deterrent to Sprint Cup drivers coming to play in the second division.
Highest placed of the Nationwide point scoring drivers were Roush Fenway Racing teammates, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne sandwiching pre-season title favourite, Elliott Sadler in fourth to sixth places. Aric Almirola was ninth and pre-race points leader, local boy Jason Leffler was the first outside the top ten.
Stenhouse takes over the top spot in the table with Leffler demoted one place. Third to tenth are covered by just eighteen points and are separating themselves from the rest of the contenders.
The full results and championship table can be found at www.nascar.com
The Nationwide Series has a break next weekend and will next race on Friday April 8th at Texas.