Race Winner: Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-35):
● Busch started second and finished first.
● After taking the lead on the opening lap, Busch battled with polesitter Tyler Reddick for the next 10 laps.
● Busch regained the lead on lap 12 and held the position through the end of Stage 1.
● Busch reported that his No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra was loose on entry. He pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment at the conclusion of the stage.
● With quick work from the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew, Busch held onto the lead as the first car off pit road.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 36-70):
● Started first and finished first.
● Busch led all 35 laps of the second stage, which saw no cautions until the stage break on lap 70.
● Still experienced a “loose-on-entry” handling condition and reported that his iK9 Toyota Supra was getting tight on exit on a long run.
● After claiming his second stage win of the race, Busch pitted under caution for four tires, fuel and another air pressure adjustment.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 71-150):
● Started first and finished second.
● Busch led the field back to green on lap 78, continuing his dominant run until the third caution of the race on lap 85.
● Happy with the handling of his iK9 Toyota Supra, crew chief Ben Beshore brought Busch to pit road for four tires and fuel under the caution. Busch was the first car off pit road. However, with one competitor staying on track, Busch restarted in the second position on lap 89.
● After another exciting battle for the lead, Busch was again in the lead on lap 94. He remained in control for the next 21 laps until the fourth caution of the day on lap 112.
● Pitting for four tires and fuel on lap 114, trouble with the right-rear tire slowed the No. 18 team’s pit stop. The team was also served with an uncontrolled tire penalty, relegating Busch to 13th for the lap-118 restart.
● Busch showed just how strong the iK9 Toyota Supra was, re-entering the top-five in just seven laps.
● Needing “a bit more air pressure” to get through traffic, Busch pitted for the final time under caution on lap 126. Though he gained one spot to exit pit road in fourth place, two other drivers did not pit, forcing Busch to restart in sixth.
● After going back to green with 20 laps to go, Busch worked his way into second place on lap 136 after overtaking his JGR teammate, Christopher Bell.
● Busch was unable to catch the leader over the final 14 laps and ultimately crossed the finish line in second, earning his third straight top-two result.
● This was Busch’s third consecutive top-two Xfinity Series finish, following his back-to-back wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
● This was Busch’s 13th top-five finish and 16th top-10 finish in 19 career Xfinity Series starts at Auto Club Speedway.
● The runner-up finish was Busch’s ninth consecutive top-10 Xfinity Series result at Auto Club Speedway.
● Busch led four times for a race-high 98 laps.
● The No. 18 iK9 team is first in the owners’ championship with 236 points, 16 ahead of the No. 2 team of Richard Childress Racing.
● There were five caution periods for a total of 28 laps.
● Only 16 of the 37 drivers in the Production Alliance Group 300 finished on the lead lap.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing:
“I just wasn’t fast enough at the end there. Cole (Custer) was really good and really fast and had a good car. They got better throughout the day and got closer to our rear bumper there on that second-to-last run before we had our pit road problems and dropped us back in the pack. Obviously, we were able to rebound, but when you have a fast guy out front and a fast guy in second, they run the same times and they stay the same distance apart. We just weren’t quick enough there at the end to chase them down. Hate it for all the iK9 Toyota Supra guys and everybody that supports this program.”
The next event on the Xfinity Series schedule is the My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, March 30 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.
Tyler Reddick Overcomes Mid-Race Flat Tire to Collect Third Top-Five Finish This Year
"We had another really solid No. 2 Hurdl Chevrolet Camaro this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. My team worked so hard on this Camaro, from putting in the work back at the shop to fixing it up after I scraped the wall in practice. I'm really proud of us for completing the weekend sweep for RCR with pole awards in both series. That was a nice 'thank you' that I could give them for the effort they've put in these past couple of weeks. We had to fight for our third top-five finish of the year today. I started off a little too loose but built tight eventually as the race went on. We had a flat right rear tire midway through the final stage after I brushed the wall, causing us to pit off sequence and go a lap down. We got lucky when a caution came out soon after, which allowed us to take the wave around and get our lap back. We had a great car and were able to get back into the top five, but I hate that we weren't able to really get back up to the front and fight for the win. This one should have been ours. We were so close. I'm looking forward to Texas and getting back at it still as the points leader."
Thanks to Cole Custer, Kyle Busch will have to wait at least one more day.
With a determined run to the finish in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway, Custer kept Busch at bay after a restart with 20 laps left and thwarted Busch’s march toward 200 victories across NASCAR’s top three national series.
In winning for the third time in his career and the first time at his home track, the Ladera Ranch, Calif., native grabbed the lead from Christopher Bell on Lap 132 of 150 and pulled away to beat Busch to the finish by 1.927 seconds, after Busch passed Bell for second on Lap 136.
For his part, Busch fell one spot short of win No. 200 after a self-inflicted wound by his pit crew sent the No. 18 Toyota to the back of the field for a restart on Lap 118. Four circuits earlier, under caution, a problem with the jack on the left side of the car cost Busch 10 spots on pit road.
But the coup de grace was a penalty for an uncontrolled tire that forced him to restart at the tail end of the field and gave Custer a chance out front in clean air.
“It means a ton,” said the 21-year-old Custer. “As great a driver as Kyle Busch is, he’s going to be one of the legends of our sport. To keep him one race more from getting 200 means a lot. I’m sure he’s a little bit frustrated, but we have a great time racing him.”
Once Custer passed Bell for the lead, his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford took off.
“We had a pretty good car all day,” said Custer, who led four times for a total of 29 laps. “It was just a matter of getting out front. We got our car to turn a little better, and that was kind of the difference.”
After restarting sixth on Lap 131, Busch, who won the first two stages and led 98 laps, couldn’t match Custer’s speed over the last 20 circuits.
“Lack of grip there at the end," said Busch, who will have his next shot at his 200th win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "We just didn't have the speed we needed with the No. 00.
“Earlier in the day we were two tenths (of a second) better than some of the guys, and there at the end, we weren't. It is what it is, I guess… Our Supra was fast, just not enough at the end. At the end there, he (Custer) was really good and really fast and had a good car. They got better throughout the day and got closer to our rear bumper there on that second-to-last run before we had our pit road problems and dropped us back in the pack.
"Obviously, we were able to rebound, but when you have a fast guy out front and a fast guy in second, they run the same times, and they stay the same distance apart. We just weren’t quick enough there at the end to chase them down."
Bell held third despite fighting handling issues throughout the afternoon. Polesitter Tyler Reddick recovered from several brushes with the outside wall to run fourth. Chase Briscoe was fifth in the No. 98 Ford.
Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones and Ryan Preece all recovered from spins to come home sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Justin Allgaier and Justin Haley completed the top 10.
Asked how he planned to celebrate the victory, Custer had a ready reply.
“This year, I can drink,” he quipped.
Cole Custer celebrated in victory lane on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway in the No. 00 Thompson Pipe / Haas CNC Ford. Custer, the third-place starter in the 300-mile event, led the field for 29 circuits to score his third career NASCAR XFINITY Series win.
Custer passed race leader Christopher Bell with 19 laps remaining and never looked back. Bell was later passed by Kyle Busch for the second spot and went on to a third-place finish. The driver of the No. 00 Ford saw the lead four times throughout the event.
Kyle Busch finished runner-up in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300. Busch, who started in second and entered the afternoon looking for national series win No. 200, led 98 of the 150 laps. However, late-race miscues on pit road that included a slow pit stop and an uncontrolled tire penalty, relegated the race dominator to the 13th position for the restart.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran, who won both stages of the event, worked his way through the field quickly. However, Custer, eventual race winner, was no match for the No. 18 Toyota.
Christopher Bell rounded out the top three finishers on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota, who started fourth on the leaderboard, leaves the 2.0-mile oval with his second top five and third top 10 finish this year.
Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe took home the fourth and fifth spots.
Rest of the top 10 finishers included Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones, Ryan Preece, Justin Allgaier and Justin Haley.
The first two stages at Auto Club Speedway went clean and green. The first on-track incident occurred on lap 83 when John Hunter Nemechek had a miscommunication and went across the nose of the No. 39 Chevrolet of Ryan Sieg. Nemechek spun into the inside retaining wall separating the track and pit road and was done for the day as a result. Nemechek finished 28th while Sieg continued to finish 11th.
On lap 110, with 40 laps to go, Austin Cindric brought out the yellow flag in turn four. Despite the incident, Cindric continued his way in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford to finish sixth.
Not long after going green, Brandon Jones brought out the fifth and final yellow flag of the day in turn three. Jones, in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, went on to a seventh-place finish.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series will take a weekend off and return at Texas Motor Speedway on March 30th. The My Bariatric Solutions 300 will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET. live on FS1 and PRN Radio.
Denny Hamlin conjured up a name from “Days of Thunder” when talking about his golf buddy Kyle Larson.
The debate was simple. Is it better for a driver to know his race car from the ground up, as Kyle Busch does, or is it better for a driver to leave all the mechanics and setup to his crew chief, as Kyle Larson does.
Busch often suggests specific changes to crew chief Adam Stevens. Larson remains deliberately and blithely uninformed about the workings of the car.
“I’ve talked to both of them pretty often, between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson,” said Hamlin, who has been Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing for more than a decade. “Larson is definitely the Cole Trickle. He just gets in and drives. He has no idea what’s going on within the car—and that style works, and he’s fast, and he’s really, really talented.
“Kyle Busch, when I hear him talking in debriefs, he’s very downloaded into ‘The right front has this feel. It’s got too much load, not enough load, this, that and the other.’ Some crew chiefs could maybe be overwhelmed with that. I think he’s got a great pairing with Adam. He understands (Kyle) when he’s saying what he’s saying.”
If Busch and Larson are the two extremes, Hamlin considers himself more of a blend of styles.
“I think I’m kind of an in-between guy, to be honest with you,” said the most recent Daytona 500 winner. “There are so many different ways to do it. (Teammate) Martin (Truex Jr.) is kind of an in-between guy as well, but Kyle is certainly more detail-oriented with the car itself.”
KEVIN HARVICK PUT LAST YEAR’S FONTANA ACCIDENT OUT OF MIND
Kevin Harvick has a selective memory—and he’s happy about it.
When Harvick came to Auto Club Speedway last year, he was riding a three-race winning streak and trying to join the elite four-in-a-row club. But Harvick’s bid to win at the two-mile track didn’t survive the first stage of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Harvick was racing for position against Kyle Larson on Lap 38 when the two cars collided near the exit from Turn 2.
After repairs, Harvick finished the race nine laps down in 35th place. But does the memory of that wreck and the lost chance for four straight victories bother him? Hardly.
“I honestly had forgotten we wrecked until you brought it up,” Harvick told reporters during a question-and-answer session on Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “I could care less. Sometimes I wreck. Sometimes I win. Honestly, I have grown so numb to what people think or the things I have done that I just love going to a race track with a fresh mind-set on a week-to-week basis.
“I’ve learned that what I did last week has no merit in what I need to do this week. I don't know. I guess I have done this for so long that I just have a short memory. I can laugh those things off.”
This year, Harvick comes to Fontana third in the standings and seeking his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the year. In the first four events of the season, his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing cars have been fast, but not dominant.
“For us, I feel like we have had top-five, top-three cars the last three weeks,” Harvick said. “They’re just not quite winning cars.”
Of course, that could change in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Harvick will start on the front row beside pole winner Austin Dillon.
BRAD KESELOWSKI TOPS SPEED CHART IN HAPPY HOUR
With drivers exploring a variety of lines through the corners at windswept Auto Club Speedway, Brad Keselowski jumped to the top of the speed chart on his 27th lap in Saturday’s final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice.
Keselowski covered the two-mile distance in 40.759 seconds (176.648 mph), edging Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Daniel Hemric (teammate of pole winner Austin Dillon) for Happy Hour honors by .023 seconds.
Dillon was ninth fastest, as the Richard Childress Racing entries continued to show early-season strength.
Hemric’s Chevrolet was an anomaly in the top seven, which featured six Fords from three different teams. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammates, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano, were fifth and sixth, respectively.
Kevin Harvick, who will start next to Dillon on the front row on Sunday, fought a tight condition in Happy Hour and posted the 17th fastest single lap. Six-time Fontana winner Jimmie Johnson was one spot behind Harvick on the speed chart despite getting the most track time in the session. Johnson ran 52 laps in the 50-minute final practice.
Hemric was fastest in consecutive 10-lap average at 174.940 mph, with Blaney second and Keselowski third.
iK9 Backs Hailie Deegan’s Six-Race ARCA Campaign; Sponsorship Debuts in April 6 NKNPSE Race at Bristol16 Mar 2019 Written by Steven B. Wilson
iK9, a global leader in canine security services and training, will support TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and NASCAR Next driver Hailie Deegan in her six-race campaign in the 2019 ARCA Menards Series, specifically by serving as her primary sponsor for the May 31 General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway while being an associate sponsor at the five other ARCA races.
The 17-year-old racer from Temecula, California, will make her ARCA debut May 19 at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway in a Toyota Camry for Venturini Motorsports. Deegan will then race at Pocono before competing June 14 at Madison (Wis.) International Speedway, July 13 at Elko Speedway in New Market, Minnesota, Oct. 5 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana, and Oct. 18 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. This augments Deegan’s existing slate of races, which includes a full season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West where she is contending for the championship, along with select Pro Series East events, which includes the April 6 Pro Series East race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway where iK9 will make its debut as her primary sponsor.
“We think Hailie is an exceptional talent who has proven to be an up-and-coming leader in the racing world,” said Landon Ash, founder of Birmingham, Alabama-based Xtreme Concepts, the parent company of iK9. “Motorsports is a powerful marketing platform and this partnership with Hailie is great for the sport, but also for iK9 and Xtreme Concepts as we reinforce our commitment to NASCAR and the development of its future stars. Hailie is a strong personality who strengthens our existing lineup of Jeffrey Earnhardt, Kyle Busch and Brandon Jones. They’re all specialized athletes who align very well with iK9, as we provide the skills and support necessary for our clients to care for their highly specialized dogs.”
Deegan became the first female to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race when she took the checkered flag last September at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway. She ended the season as the Pro Series West Rookie of the Year, another female first in any NASCAR regional or national series. Deegan recently added to her burgeoning legacy when she won the season-opening Pro Series West race Feb. 28 at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to build my NASCAR career and I’m extremely proud to represent iK9 along with Toyota, TRD, Monster Energy and Craftsman,” said Deegan, the only female racer to have won multiple championships in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. “Partnerships are key to earning these kinds of opportunities, and iK9’s mission appeals to who I want to be as a racer and also as a person.”
Deegan is the daughter of legendary X Games Motocross champion Brian Deegan, who has competed in every X Games since its inception, medaling 10 times with three golds and seven bronzes. He has also competed in in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, TORC Series, Global RallyCross Championship and even select Monster Jam events in his Metal Mulisha Monster Truck.
The younger Deegan began her racing career at age eight in the Junior Kart division of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series before advancing to Pro Trucks. She won three championships along the way – the 2013 Junior 2 Kart title, the 2015 Modified Kart Regional crown and the 2016 Modified Kart National championship, the latter of which earned Deegan the 2016 Lucas Oil Off Road Driver of the Year award.
“Hailie and her dad, Brian, embody the all-out, never-quit attitude of our personnel, who have risked life and limb for our country and are now using their skills on behalf of iK9 and Xtreme Concepts,” Ash said. “These are the kinds of traits that resonate with our personnel and, in turn, the clients we represent.”
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