Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch held off rookie Kyle Larson to win Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. JGR driver Matt Kenseth finished fourth, while Denny Hamlin was taken to the hospital just minutes before the race was scheduled to start due to a sinus infection that was affecting his vision. Relief driver Sam Hornish Jr., who was on standby for Kenseth (his wife is due to have the couple’s third child any day), came from the rear for an impressive 17th-place finish.
Busch, in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, started 14th and moved forward quickly, taking the lead for the first time after the first caution of the race on Lap 25. Busch maintained a top 10 position for much of the race in spite of tapping the wall with less than 50 to go. The race came down to a green-white-checkered finish, with Busch and many of the front-runners coming to the pits for fresh rubber. Busch lined up fifth on the restart and used his tire advantage to make a final-lap pass of his brother Kurt and Tony Stewart for the win. Busch led just two times for five laps.
Kenseth, in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, started with a loose race car from the pole, drifting outside the top five on the opening run. Kenseth also stayed in the top 10 for much of the race, leading four times for 19 laps throughout the day.
Hornish Jr., in Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, started at the rear of the field and used the opening laps to get comfortable in the car, making his way into the top 25 by Lap 50. With less than 30 laps to go, Hornish Jr. would work his way into the 14th position before contact with Paul Menard sent him sliding; he kept the No. 11 off the wall, and worked his way back into the top 20, finishing 17th.
Hamlin is scheduled to be reevaluated later this week in respect to starting at Martinsville Speedway this weekend.
Kurt Busch finished third, while Stewart finished fifth. Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger, Menard and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 10.
Larson had the upper hand on Busch Saturday in the treatmyclot.com 300 Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway, as he held off challenges from Kevin Harvick and Busch during the late stages of the race. Busch led four times for 25 laps in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, while JGR teammate Elliott Sadler brought the No. 11 SportClips Toyota home fifth and Kenseth finished seventh in the No. 20 GameStop/Turtle Beach Toyota.
Harvick finished second, followed by Busch in third and Joey Logano in fourth. Rookie Chase Elliott finished sixth, while Ty Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith finished eighth through 10th, respectively.
The Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville Speedway for the Sunday, March 30th running of the STP 500. The Nationwide Series is off until Friday, April 4th at Texas Motor Speedway. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.
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