Kyle Busch breaks 200 wins across NASCAR by winning the Auto Club 400 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway.
“I cherish every minute of it,” Busch mentioned when asked to recollect the memories of all his victories.
In case you haven’t heard, Kyle Busch has been on debate as one of the greatest of all time, especially with the comparison of Richard Petty’s 200 victories in NASCAR. No matter what side you choose, it’s undeniable his accomplishments are nothing short of legendary.
“It’s something that I don’t necessarily pay attention to,” Busch declared shaking his head. “As long as you’re successful and doing a good job and doing your job about what you know how to do and you’re winning those races, then you’re going to be eclipsing a lot of milestones and certainly it’s been pretty awesome so far.”
Joey Logano was one position of earning back to back victories on the west coast, but led his Team Penske teammates as the three Fords finished in the top 5.
“[Brad and I] only raced for about two laps before the No. 18 blew our doors off,” Logano said of Busch. “The fastest car won the race. We just didn’t have nothing for that green car. We held strong today with the Auto Club Mustang. You want to win at the home track of your sponsor. We gave it a solid run. We have a lot of momentum on this race team right now.”
The Toyota camp mentioned all weekend that the Fords were fast. Busch’s was faster, but with Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney completing the top 5, they were right there to capitalize if the No. 18 made a mistake.
“We just weren’t very good the first run, but we got a lot better,” Blaney said. “We had a lap-and-a-half on our tires when the caution came out (on Lap 165). I thought if I could control the race from the front row and be the leader that I might be able to hold on because I thought our car was pretty good at the time.
“I was fourth by the time we got to Turn 1. I got no push. It took 10 laps for it to come in, and we were eighth and drove back to fifth. We had a really fast PPG Ford Mustang, we just never got the lead or track position with equal tires and that hurt us, but overall not a bad day.”
Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon completed the top 10.
“It was just an uphill battle to reclaim track position,” said Dillon who faced an illness all race long. “Through hard work, we were able to finish 10th. I’m so proud of this team.”
Stages Swept by Kyle Busch for the Third Time
Before the cars left pit road, Austin Dillon began the day on pole after yesterday’s awkward qualifying session, but was on standby for an illness from the previous night. Cole Custer, yesterday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series winner in the Production Alliance Group 300, was the only eligible driver as a replacement. Because he races with a Ford team, he had to sign an exemption so he could be on standby in case Dillon needed to exit the car. Two cars went to the rear for the start for the race. Michael McDowell’s team failed inspection twice, and Matt Tifft had an engine change. The car chief of McDowell was ejected for the rest of the weekend due to the failed inspections per the NASCAR rule book.
In a press release, Auto Club Speedway announced they were going to run a Five Wide Salute to the fans during the opening laps. Saluting the fans has been a long tradition in racing and short track racing, and this weekend celebrated Auto Club Speedway’s signature racing style of flat out and five wide.
“This five wide salute will be an impressive sight and is a nod to both our race fans and the grassroots of the sport,” said Dave Allen, President of Auto Club Speedway. “I grew up going to and racing at dirt tracks, and I am very passionate about the community because at the end of the day, we’re all family. I look forward to seeing everyone’s reaction in the grandstands, infield and along pit road.”
Early in the race, it appeared the No. 14 Ford of Clint Bowyer lost a cylinder. During the final stage, his engine looked to finally let go and ended his disappointing weekend. At the end of the first stage, Dillon lost a tire and the yellow was put out for debris. The field was restarted with one lap to go, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun in Turns 1 and 2 in the middle of the pack. Luckily, no one crashed into him, but a few drivers such as Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman either scrapped the wall or bumped into another competitor trying to get around the wreck.
One big potential game changer was Kyle Busch’s speeding penalty. Kyle also received a penalty in yesterday’s Xfinity race when a crew member appeared to lose control of a tire, and as it rolled into the next pit stall, Busch had to climb his way up through the field. The same was true in Sunday’s race as he was put at the rear of the field after the penalty during pit stops at the conclusion of Stage 2.
“That thought definitely certainly crosses your mind,” Busch reflected on the penalty that put him in an uphill battle. “I knew we had a great racecar all day long. I wasn’t sure how well we were going to be able to come through the field, get back in traffic, get our way worked back up to the lead. Fortunately, we were in the Interstate Batteries green today with being St. Patty’s day. It certainly is a monumental moment for all of us, including M&M’s, Skittles, and Snickers.”
In the final stage during green flag pit stops, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace had a flat tire and the debris caused a yellow flag. This trapped some drivers a lap down as roughly six drivers were left on the lead lap. This played into Kyle Busch’s favor since he was leading at the time but had not yet made his pit stop.
Most of the field took the wave around, and Kyle Busch took what would be the final restart alongside Ryan Blaney. Blaney was the control car as he elected to stay out, but quickly dropped back on the initial start. Busch had a short battle with Logano, Keselowski and Harvick, but would soon reclaim the lead with 26 laps to go and hold it for the rest of the race.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competes at the first short track of the season at Martinsville Speedway on March 24.