Speedway Digest Staff
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
Making his first career start at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) on Saturday, California native Kyle Larson had momentum on his side heading into the Royal Purple 300. Following a strong showing in practice and qualifying ninth, Larson kept the Eveready Camaro inside the top-10 of the running order for the majority of the afternoon. Overcoming a miscue on a pit stop just past the halfway point, Larson motored to a sixth-place finish.
Crew chief Trent Owens and the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports team worked to dial in the Eveready Camaro on the long run during the lone NNS practice session on Friday, which proved to pay off for the rookie driver on Saturday. Following the drop of the green flag, Larson was content to stay safely inside the top-10, telling Owens after the first 10 laps that he was pretty happy with his Eveready Camaro and needed very small adjustments on the first round of pit stops. Owens decided to call his driver to pit road under the first caution period of the day on lap 35, giving him four fresh tires and a minor adjustment. Larson’s Camaro responded well to the first changes, and he pushed forward a few more spots to move into the top-five by the halfway point, continuing to improve under lengthy green flag racing conditions.
Coming down pit road with the rest of the field under the third caution of the day, on lap 95, Larson carried too much speed while entering his pit box and had to be pushed back into his stall by the No. 32 crew. Losing precious seconds during the exchange, Larson would restart from the 15th position on lap 98. The 20-year-old wasted no time, however, and regained all of the spots he lost in just two laps. Under the final caution of the afternoon, just 10 laps later, Larson returned to pit road for a fuel-only stop. After rejoining the field in the eighth spot with 35 laps remaining, he went to work on the competitors ahead of him and picked off two more positions to claim a sixth-place finish.
"We had a pretty good weekend with the Eveready Camaro, and I’m happy to leave here with a solid finish and a good day in the points,” Larson said post-race. “I overshot my pit box during our third stop, and my Turner Scott Motorsports team did a great job to recover from that. I had a lot of fun on that restart and Trent Owens and this team gave me a fast Camaro that helped me get all those spots back. I’m looking forward to staying consistent and keeping up a good string of finishes like this.”
With 90-Year-Old "Grandma Dottie" watching him race in person for the first time in his career, Parker Kligerman was looking to produce a performance to remember. After running just inside the top 10 for the majority of the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana Calif., the 22-year-old driver found himself scored in the 13th position for a lap-115 restart, the second driver with four fresh tires. Seven laps later, the talented youngster had maneuvered his way into the top five and as the race proceeded caution free made his way up to third for several laps. With just four circuits remaining, he surrendered the position to former Sprint Cup Series regular Regan Smith, but the end result was a Nationwide Series-best fourth-place finish in the sentimental race.
"That last pit stop Eric (Phillips, crew chief) made a great call to take tires and we just blasted through the field and tried to hold on for third, but couldn't quite run them down for first or second and just barely came up short on third," said Kligerman, who has two top-five finishes across five starts this season. "My 90-year-old grandma came to the race and I had my career-best finish in front of her. I'm proud of that -- happy she was here and hope she enjoyed herself."
The early indication Saturday was that Kligerman would be a force to be reckoned with, as the youngster drove from his eighth starting position up to fifth by lap 10 and proclaimed his No. 77 Toyota Racing Camry "bad to the bone." He remained in the fifth spot until a debris caution slowed the field for the first time on lap 34.
Crew chief Eric Phillips summoned his driver to pit road, where the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered an unusually slow four-tire and fuel stop and returned the No. 77 Toyota to the track scored in the ninth position. Shortly after the lap-38 restart Kligerman subsided outside the top 10, but would return to the tenth spot on lap 51.
In the middle stages of the race, the Connecticut native diagnosed his Camry as "tight in the center and needing drive off" as he ran just inside the top 10. Phillips and crew made track bar and air pressure adjustments during each of the next two stops, but their driver continued to proclaim a need for "more drive off" as the 150-lap race approached the final stages.
The No. 77 Toyota was scored in the ninth spot when a one-car spin on lap 110, produced what turned out to be the final caution of the race. With the race historically having a late-race caution, the crew chiefs for the top-eight cars elected to save their last set of Goodyear tires and made fuel-only stops, while Phillips believed the best way for his team to improve on an already strong run was to make a four-tire stop and hope that the race would remain caution free.
Kligerman was scored in the 13th position when the green flag waved, for what turned out to be the final time on lap 115. After the always adventurous restart at the extremely wide California track sorted itself out, he began his march towards the front. Using the apron and making three-wide passes, just seven laps later the 22-year-old had maneuvered his black Camry into the top five.
With just over 20 laps remaining, the talented youngster made his way around two more competitors and settled into the third spot, where he would remain for several laps. Smith emerged from a battle with eventual fifth-place finisher Austin Dillon, chased down and with just four laps remaining made his way around Kligerman for the coveted final spot on the podium.
KBM owner Kyle Busch in his Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy machine picked up his third Nationwide Series victory in just five races this season. The win was his series-leading 54th career triumph, his sixth in the Nationwide Series at Auto Club Speedway and the 108th of his career in one of NASCAR's top three divisions. Nationwide Series championship point standings leader Sam Hornish Jr. finished 0.834 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up position. Smith, Kligerman and Dillon rounded out the top-five finishers.
Kligerman was awarded the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race and his 54 quality passes tied him with rookie Kyle Larson for the most during the 150-lap event.
There were four caution periods for 17 laps. Seven drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 17 times. Nine drivers failed to finish the race.
Kligerman, who netted KBM's 25th career top-10 finish across 38 Nationwide Series starts, will enjoy two weeks off before heading into the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 April 12 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth ranked eighth in the Nationwide Series championship standings. Live television coverage of the 200-lap event begins with NASCAR Countdown Friday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.
- Richard Childress Racing teammates finished fifth (Austin Dillon), eighth (Brian Scott) and 15th (Dakoda Armstrong).
- Scott is third in the Nationwide Series driver championship point standings, trailing leader Sam Hornish, Jr. by 31 markers, while Dillon ranks fifth, 38 points back.
- The No. 2 Chevrolet team ranks fourth in the Nationwide Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 3 team sixth in the standings and the No. 33 team eighth.
- Dillon was the third-Fastest Driver Early In a Run (169.879 mph), third-Fastest on Restarts (167.547 mph), earned the fourth-best Driver Rating (113.2),
- In total, RCR teammate posted 13 of the Fastest Laps Run, with nine and four respectively.
- Scott completed 53 passes while running in the top 15, tying him for third in the Quality Passes Post-Race Loop Data Category and fifth-best Speed in Traffic (167.769 mph).
- Armstrong tied for fourth in the Closers category after gaining one position during the final 15 (10 percent) laps.
- Kyle Busch earned his third victory of the 2013 Nationwide Series season and was followed to the finish line by Hornish, Regan Smith, Parker Klingerman and Dillon.
- The next Nationwide Series race is the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 12. The sixth race of the 2013 season is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Satellite Radio.
Brian Scott Earns Seventh Consecutive Top-10 Finish
Start - 12 Finish - 8 Laps Led - 3 Points - 3
BRIAN SCOTT QUOTE:
"We had a good car and tires were crucial throughout the race. We made a gamble on pit road, and it didn't go our way, but luckily we got a caution and were able to come back down for tires. I feel like we're clicking and continue to get better each week. We'll take the top-10 finish and move on to Texas (Motor Speedway) in a couple weeks."
Austin Dillon Earns a Top-Five Finish In the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet
at Auto Club Speedway
Dakoda Armstrong Brings Home Solid Top-15 Finish at Auto Club Speedway
Start - 13 Finish - 15 Laps Led - 0 Owner Points - 8
DAKODA ARMSTRONG QUOTE:
"I can't thank everyone at Richard Childress Racing enough for this opportunity. We definitely had a top-10 car the entire afternoon, but I kept having trouble on the restarts and had to dig myself out of a hole all day. The entire No. 33 Winfield Chevrolet team was great, especially on pit road and I'm looking forward to driving this car again at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May."
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch earned his 54th career NASCAR Nationwide Series win today, in 249 starts, by bringing the No. 54 Monster Energy program to victory lane at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. It was the team’s third win across five weeks this race season. Taking home the trophy Busch captured his sixth victory and ninth top-five finish in 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) starts at Auto Club Speedway. The win catapulted Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to nine-straight Nationwide Series wins at this event, dating back to Feb. 2008.
During initial on-track activity Friday through one long practice session, it was evident that Busch had a strong car but one that could develop a tight-handling condition. However, on Saturday morning when the team took to the track for a qualifying run, the 27-year-old Busch paced the field with a fast lap of 178.607mph, earning Busch his third Nationwide Series pole at Fontana, and 28th first-place starting spot of his career.
Upon taking the green flag Saturday afternoon, Busch immediately battled teammate Elliott Sadler who charged to the front, but later had an engine issue that took him out of contention. Busch commented immediately to the team that his black machine was ‘a little snug’ as anticipated. Early in the race, on lap 35 of 150, the JGR Monster Energy team pitted with tire changes and a wedge adjustment to free up their skilled driver’s Camry. A second pit stop offered the chance for further adjustments to the Toyota. Busch explained, ‘the car is good.’
Busch drove amongst the leaders through much of the day, often holding the first-place spot, and often battling between the No. 12 of Sam Hornish Jr. and the No. 3 of Austin Dillon. The final battle came towards the end of the race when Busch had to track down and pass the No. 12 car of Hornish Jr., a tough competitor all weekend. In the end Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing prevailed.
The NASCAR veteran captured the checkered flag and proceeded to victory lane where his sponsor’s Monster Energy employee guests were waiting to celebrate. When interviewed post-race, the excited driver described, “You work hard and you give it all you can. There’s been days on the Cup side where we can lead all the laps and we mess up either on adjustments or I just can’t get enough out of the car that I need, but here today -- this is awesome. It’s the home for Monster Energy, so we appreciate their support. Great ‘home game’ for us. Also, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) is right down the road. Of course we appreciate Toyota’s support and Nationwide Insurance -- what can I say. It’s fun to come out here and race with these guys. Sam (Hornish Jr.), he’s put on a whole new game this year -- these guys better watch out for going after the championship. He’s done a great job. I was comfortable today in my Butler seat and just want to say again, thanks to Mark Cronquist (JGR engine builder) and all the guys at JGR engines.”
Busch continued, “It’s really, really cool -- it's just been fun to be able to work with Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and work with these guys at Joe Gibbs Racing again. They’re known for having great stuff, but yet you still have to be able to wheel it and today, I don’t think we were the best car, but got up on the wheel there at the end and just chased down that 12 (Sam Hornish Jr.) -- he was really, really good today. Didn’t want to see him win here in front of our hometown crowd of Monster Energy folks that were in the stands today and of course the Toyota folks that are here as well. We got up on the wheel, like I said and tried to push as hard as I could and run the top side there for a little bit. Ran him down and got there, was able to do a draft move by him and sort of kept running the top to keep the momentum going, but was still trying to search around to find a lap time that was good for us. It seemed like we were back and forth a little bit. Sam could run a good lap, I’d run a good lap. We were battling each other there on the stop watch, not necessarily on the race track, but still felt like it was a great race. Halfway through, two-thirds through us and the 12 (Sam Hornish Jr.) were putting on a good show up front, trading the lead back and forth a little bit, side-by-side, he’d go inside, I’d go inside. It’s pretty neat.”
The seasoned lap leader led the field seven times for 92 laps. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers finished 7th and 34th respectively. Hornish Jr., Regan Smith, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Parker Kligerman and Austin Dillon completed the top-five finishers. There were four caution periods for 17 laps of the race along with 17 lead changes across seven drivers.
The No. 54 Monster Energy team remained second in the Owner’s Point standings, jumping to only 10 points from the lead.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series takes a break in the schedule, resuming on April 12th at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (TX) with the race television broadcast starting at 8:00pm EST on ESPN2. Busch will make his sixth start of the season behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Monster Energy Camry.
Following a 21st-place finish at one of his most difficult tracks on the circuit, Eric McClure headed to another one of his least favorite tracks, Auto Club Speedway, looking for a solid finish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for McClure as he battled an ill-handling car throughout the entire 300-mile event to finish as follows:
27th-Eric McClure, No. 14 Hefty®/Reynolds® Toyota Camry
Taking the green flag from the 37th position, McClure advanced three positions in the running order by lap 10, despite battling a car that was not only laying over on the “right front” but also bouncing in the turns.
A caution on lap 32 allowed the 34-year-old driver, who was running 30th at the time, to bring his orange and blue Camry to the attention of the crew where they changed four tires, added fuel, and made several chassis adjustments in hopes of helping pacify the car’s ill-handling condition. Although the team had to make several adjustments, their quick work allowed McClure to advance one position for the lap 38 restart.
When the race resumed, it didn’t take long for McClure to inform his crew that the adjustments made didn’t help the car’s handling. By lap 40, McClure had slid back to the 32nd position. Four laps later, the event’s second caution flag waved so the crew took this opportunity to make additional adjustments to the car. When the race resumed on lap 49, McClure was still scored in the 32nd position.
As the race continued, the field saw its longest green flag run of the afternoon. It was during this time that the handling of the Hefty®/Reynolds® Camry improved slightly, allowing McClure to work his way up to the 28th position by the halfway marker of the race.
By lap 86, McClure was running in the 24th position. He wasn’t able to hold the position long as crew chief John Monsam called him to pit road, under green conditions, for four tires, fuel, and an air-pressure adjustment. Once the field cycled through, McClure was scored in the 29th position, three laps down to the race leader.
During the final 50 laps, McClure continued to battle an ill-handling car, although it was driving better than it was at the beginning of the event. The team made one last pit stop on lap 112 for tires, fuel, and an air-pressure adjustment in hopes of helping McClure overtake the next four cars for position. Unfortunately, the Virginia driver was only able to advance two positions to finish the Royal Purple 300 in the 27th position.
With this finish, the TriStar Motorsports team slipped one position to 23rd in the NASCAR Owner Standings.
Driver, Eric McClure Quotes: “It wasn't a great weekend. Our expectations have changed in the last 10 races so we struggled in that regard. We had a few problems and just couldn't overcome them. But, John and the guys worked hard and we fought to make something out of it, so it wasn't a total loss. We will be better in Texas.”
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race scheduled to run today, March 23, at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway has been postponed due to inclement weather.
The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 presented by G-Clean is now slated to be contested at the historic half mile on Saturday, April 6. The schedule of events for raceday will remain the same.
Despite the postponement, Greenville will remain the second event on the 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule. Dylan Kwasniewski was victorious in the season-opener at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on March 16. The series will follow Greenville with its inaugural date at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla., on April 13.
Last year’s Auto Club 400 winner Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers / Mobil 1 Chevrolet) made a return trip to the Walk of Fame on Friday commemorating his 2012 victory at the Auto Club Speedway.
“It feels great to be back here,” said Stewart, who also was bestowed the honor back in 2011 following his October of 2010 win at Auto Club Speedway. “I love this track and racing here. This makes it a lot of fun when you can win and then get recognized for it like this.”
Stewart, 41, was presented with a plaque by Speedway Vice President Dave Allen and then stepped in the concrete and signed his name and number as a large crowd of his fans cheered him on.
Last March, Stewart won his second race of the year capturing the rain-shortened 16th annual Auto Club 400 after 129 laps were completed.
Located at Gate 12, on the east end of the FanZone, the Auto Club Speedway Walk of Fame ceremony has become a fan-favorite event.
Stewart joins other past ACS winners Kevin Harvick (2011), Jimmie Johnson (’02, ’07, ’08, ’10), Jeff Gordon (’97, ’99 & 04), Mark Martin (’98), Jeremy Mayfield (’00), Rusty Wallace (’01), Kurt Busch (’03), Elliott Sadler (’04), Kyle Busch (’05), Greg Biffle (’05), Matt Kenseth (’06, ’07 & ‘08), Kasey Kahne (’06) and Carl Edwards (’09, ‘10) as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to be enshrined at the speedway’s Walk of Fame.