Kyle Larson was able to hold off fellow-Sprint Cup Series regulars Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the final laps of the TreatMyClot.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday to claim the race win. It was the first-career Nationwide win for Larson, a native of Sacramento, Calif. Fellow-Californian, Harvick, a Bakersfield native, finished second to give home-state drivers a one-two finish, and Kyle Busch was third.
"That was a blast racing out there," Larson said. "It's pretty cool to beat those guys."
The win was a first for a California native in Nationwide competition at Auto Club Speedway and was the first series race at the track in the last 10 won by a team other than Joe Gibbs Racing, as Larson drives for Chip Ganassi Racing.
"He's great," Busch said of Larson. "He's definitely a great talent. That's why he's here. That's why he's made it this far. That's why he's in Cup. He does a good job. It was fun racing there at the end."
Cup regulars took the top-four spots in the finishing order, with Joey Logano, who led a race-high 96 laps out of the 150 that made up the race, finishing fourth. Nationwide Series championship-eligible driver Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-five.
Sadler started on the pole, but lost the lead on the first lap to Kevin Harvick. For the remainder of the first half of the race, the top-five was dominated by Logano, Busch, Harvick and Matt Kenseth, with Sadler being the only Nationwide regular running consistently within the top-five.
Busch made his way to the front quickly after starting 39th in the 40-car field. He was in the back at the start after failing to make a qualifying attempt earlier in the day, as his car spent the entire qualifying session in technical inspection. Logano took the lead on lap six, and a lap later, Busch was in the top-10. Busch made his way up to second by lap 22 and took the lead from Logano during a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 40 when Logano had a slow 19.5-second stop.
"This morning, they rolled through inspection, just to check everything as soon as they came in and everything was fine," Busch said. "They passed and everything was green. Then, when they went back through inspection in order to get ready for qualifying, the NASCAR inspectors didn't like the length of the studs on the wheels. There wasn't enough thread showing, so we were going to have faster pit stops than everybody else. So they made us change studs. All they did was roll around and change studs and went back across the platform and the platform said it was illegal. The car was; it was out of skew. So they came back, made an adjustment and went back across the platform and didn't change the number. Came back, made another adjustment to the car to get less skew, back to the platform, didn't change the number. They just kept making laps and little, little increments and they weren't making any gains on the numbers. Finally, it was just a matter of, 'Alright, give up, start over and figure out what the heck is really going on,' and I think it took them, still, another 10 minutes after our session had ended to get through."
Series regular Brian Scott took the lead on a restart at the halfway point of the race, but a few laps later, Logano, Busch and others were able to get back by him. By the end, Scott was outside the top-10, finishing 12th.
Another series regular, Chase Elliott, was able to get close to the front in the closing stages of the race, but he lost six positions on pit road during a caution in the final 20 laps, dropping from fourth to 10th for the final restart. He was able to recover, somewhat, to finish sixth.
Larson got up to the second position with 49 laps to go, getting by Busch for the spot. In the laps that followed, he gained on then-leader Logano. With 26 remaining, he was racing Logano for the lead.
The yellow flag waved for the fourth and final time in the race with 21 laps to go. Harvick got off pit road first to restart in the lead, with Larson alongside in second.
"We just over-adjusted a little bit," Logano said of not being able to get back up front in the closing laps. "The run before, Kyle Larson caught me pretty quick, and I was pretty free, so we tightened it up quite a bit and restarted third, there, but it was just too tight."
When the race returned to green, Larson got out in front for the lead. For the remaining laps, Busch and Harvick swapped second position back and forth, each pulling up beside Larson to race for the top spot. But each of those attempts failed.
"I wasn't very happy when we got that last caution," Larson said. "I was surprised when I got the lead."
Kenseth finished seventh, Ty Dillon was eighth, Trevor Bayne ninth, and Regan Smith rounded out the top-10.
"We ended up ninth, and I think we are tied for the point lead, but at this point, if we can't run faster on short runs, we will be in trouble," Bayne said.