Kyle Busch drove a dominant race as he took victory at the Royal Purple 300 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
The victory extends Joe Gibbs Racing‘s run of Fontana victories in the Nationwide Series and is Busch’s second Nationwide victory in a row.
“You work hard and you just give it all you can.” said Busch. “Here today this is awesome and it’s a great home game for us. Sam [Hornish, Jr] put on a whole new game today, people better watch out for him in the championship. I thought I was too loose but I kept working, we persevered and the car was great. You just gotta move around and not get stuck to one game, that’s what makes the good guys good.”
Sam Hornish, Jr provided the closest challenge to Busch’s victory, finishing second and battling side-by-side with the #54 for a good portion of the race.
The opening laps of the race saw the three Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Busch, Elliot Sadler and Brian Vickers battling with Brad Keselowski and Hornish for the top five places, with each driver appearing to choose a different line through the corners on each lap before Sadler stretched out a lead on the field.
Busch took the lead off Sadler on lap 17 as the #11 momentarily dropped to the apron. Radio communications between Sadler and his crew chief suggested that he saw a puff of smoke from his ignition box, resulting in his drop to the apron in order to switch to the other box.
The problems were short lived, however, as Sadler quickly became the fastest car on track and started trying to work his way back up from fourth position.
Debris brought the first caution of the day out on lap 33, just as Regan Smith came down pit road for a left-front flat tyre. The caution also fell just as the first round of green-flag pitstops were scheduled to start, meaning all of the leaders descended on pit road. Busch led the field out of pit road following no major position changes for the leaders.
Hornish took the lead away from Busch on lap 41, although the lead was to be short lived, as the #51 regained the lead just two laps later. The following lap saw the second caution of the day come out due to Paulie Harraka‘s car stopping on the infield with fire coming from the back of the #79 car.
Busch lost the lead to Hornish once again, this time on lap 50 as the #12 got the jump on Busch at the restart. This time the lead only lasted three laps as Busch retook his lead on lap 53. Lap 53 also saw Vickers come down pit road after the driver of the #20 complained of seeing a fire from his dashboard, resulting in the championship hopeful being pushed behind the wall.
“The engine just tightened up.” said Vickers. “There was a lot of oil coming out of the overflow, and lots of smoke inside the car. If we don’t get back on the track today then we’ll figure it out and come back strong next week.”
Green-flag pitstops started as the race entered its second half with Kyle Larson becoming the first person down pit road on lap 77. The next two laps saw the leaders come to pit road, with Hornish getting the jump on Busch, who had been one of the last to make their stop. Busch regained the lead from Hornish for the third time after just one lap.
The third caution of the day came out on lap 94 for debris. The leaders dived for the pits, with Brian Scott winning the race off pit road having taken the decision to take fuel only. Scott’s advantage was gone by Turn 1 on the restart, dropping back to eighth position as Busch, Hornish and Austin Dillon battled for the top three positions.
Jason White in the #00 car brought out the fourth caution of the day on lap 110 as he spun out in front of Sadler. The leaders came down on pit road with 39 to go, with the majority deciding to go for a splash and dash stop. Hornish won the race off pit road ahead of Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon, but Brad Keselowski led the field around under caution having been the only driver to not pit.
Green flag racing resumed with 35 laps left to run, with Hornish taking the lead ahead of Keselowski, Dillon, Busch and Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch retook the lead on lap 125, sailing past the #12 of Hornish and immediately beginning to pull away.
Entering the final ten laps, Busch had pulled out a lead of over a second over Hornish. Brad Keselowski’s risk of not pitting had not paid off, being forced to shut the engine off completely in the corners in a desperate attempt to save fuel, eventually finishing in 19th position.
Hornish leaves Fontana with a lead of 28 points over Regan Smith.