Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Pole sitter KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota won the NASCAR Nationwide Series CampingWorld.com 300 race Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway, after surviving starting from the back of the field due to an engine change and a speeding ticket with 60-laps to go. He led 36 of the 150-lap race. The Margin of Victory was 1.034 seconds ahead of runner-up, BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.22 Dodge.

Each time there was a restart in the last 25 laps, the field would bunch up and Busch would then just take off, pull away and stretch the gap.

Busch said “It was the pit stops that got us this win.” He credited Crew Chief JASON RATCLIFF for the victory.

Busch celebrated by executing a flying, rousing doughnut to an appreciative crowd. It took a long time for the smoke to clear. Ratliff said Busch has so far not been hurt by one of his doughnuts.

Third through fifth were: “Heartbroken not Happy” KEVIN HARVICK/No.33 Chevrolet, CARL EDWARDS/No.60 Ford, and JOEY LOGANO/No.20 Toyota.

Edwards spent the least amount of time on Pit Road – 2:47.955 minutes. Harvick had 2:55.357 minutes, making his crew seventh fastest of all.

It was the twelfth victory for Busch this season, the record for most NNS wins in a single season. This was his 12th victory in 25 NNS races this year. Busch is now second only to MARK MARTIN, for overall NNS wins – 48 to 42. Third is KEVIN HARVICK with 37 victories.

For team owner, JOE GIBBS, it is the sixth consecutive win at Auto Club Speedway, and Gibbs leads the NNS Owner Points with 2419, 149 points ahead of JODI GESCHICKTER, owner of Keselowski’s car.

This is the third time this season Busch won a NNS race after getting a speeding ticket.

Keselowski said “We out-executed our pit stop to beat Harvick.” Keselowski leads the NNS Driver Points with 4764, 384 ahead of Edwards. Busch is third, 485 down.

Busch admitted post-race that Harvick probably had the best car in the race, “but our Camry was just good enough where it needed to be on the front side of those runs where we had enough cautions there at the end that we held him off.”

Harvick, who led the most laps – 86 – was succinct in talking in the post-race media conference. “We had a great car, had a bad pit stop, and finished third.” It was one of the shortest ever podium interviews I’ve heard – no questions from the media in the Interview Room, Media Center, Sky Box Press Box, or Terrace Press Box.

Afterwards, Harvick said “I think you just look at the positive and you look at how fast my Jimmy John Chevrolet was and it was two weeks in a row where we’ve come with something different. Probably took the best car, and gave it away on pit road. We’re going to make some changes on pit road this week and come back with something different. Our cars are just tremendously better than what they have been, and obviously we’ve got to take the next step on pit road because they’re just doing a terrible job, so we got to fix that. That’s not what our operation is all about. If they can’t stand the pressure, they’re going to have to go find something else to do.”

The top Rookie was COLIN BRAUN/No.16 Ford, who started thirty-fifth and finished lucky 13.

Ricky Stenhouse and Trevor Bayne
Roush Rookie Ricky - Stenhouse and Roush Newbie Trevor Bayne. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Rookie points leader going into the race, RICKY STENHOUSE Jr/No.6 Ford, DNF after being involved in a late-race crash involving RICKY CARMICHAEL/No.10 Toyota and DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Chevrolet. Stenhouse got back on track to finish twenty-ninth, three laps down. The current Rookie standings won’t be known until the official results are posted Monday, as there is a complex formula for calculating the points based on best 16 finishes.

Patrick, running thirteenth at the time of the crash, was headed for her goal of a top 15 finish when the accident occurred. She was spun around wildly and was able to get back to the garage and retire, finishing thirtieth. Carmichael finished thirty-first, and both were nine laps down.

There will be differing opinions on Patrick’s crash which involved Rookie JAMES BUESCHER/No.11 Toyota. They’re playing the blame game. Patrick said she got into him in that spot on the preceding lap, and thinks the contact was payback. Buescher said she squeezed him. Buescher continued on track to finish seventeenth on the lead lap. Stenhouse and Carmichael had contact as aftermath of the crash.

There were ten lead changes among five drivers, Harvick-86 laps, Busch-36, Keselowski-22, Edwards-five, and MARTIN TRUEX Jr/No.99 Toyota-one. Truex started fourth but finished twenty-fifth, one lap down.

Twenty-two drivers finished on the lead lap, and the average race speed was 123.669 mph. Six cautions took 33 laps, with the first yellow flag not coming until lap 47. Four drivers DNF due to accidents: Patrick, Carmichael, BRENDAN GAUGHAN/No.62 Toyota and STEVE WALLACE/No.66Toyota. No driver was hurt.

The NNS attendance was reported as 25,000. The grandstand at the large campus in Ontario CA has 90,000 seats, more than many other tracks. There are 12 International Speedway Corporation tracks, and only four of them (Daytona, Michigan, Richmond and Talladega) have sold more tickets than Auto Club Speedway. Those other seven ISC tracks are Chicago, Darlington, Homestead, Kansas, Martinsville, Phoenix, and Watkins Glen.

Harvick is from nearby Bakersfield CA and Bakersfield residents could purchase a race ticket and parking pass for $29 – Harvick’s number.