Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rallied back after an early-race spin to drive his Fastenal Ford to an 14th-place finish in Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Auto Club Speedway.

“We started the race really good,” Stenhouse said. “The later in the race, our Fastenal Ford just got too tight. We gambled there early on but spun out on the restart which set us back all race. We kept fighting and restarted sixth for the final 31 laps but just couldn’t hold on. It was still a decent finish for us overall in the big picture.”

The two-time Xfinity champion started the 200-lap race in the 12th position but quickly bullied his way up front gaining 10 positions in the first five laps. When green flag pit-stops started cycling through, Stenhouse relinquished his seventh-place position to get four tires, fuel, and a chassis adjustment in hopes of helping his loose handling condition.  When the caution flag waved on lap 57, Stenhouse was scored in the 17th position.

Crew chief Brian Pattie played strategy telling Stenhouse to stay out where he would restart on the outside row for the one lap shootout to stage end in hopes of gaining valuable stage points. On the restart, the Fastenal Ford spun out in the midst of four wide racing bringing out the caution and the end of stage one. 

After multiple pit-stops, the Olive Branch, Miss. native restarted stage two in the 23rd position.  With a caution free stage, Stenhouse fell a lap down to the leaders due to an extremely tight condition but was scored the lucky dog when the second green checkered flag waved.

During scheduled green flag pit-stops, the caution flag waved trapping multiple cars a lap down. Stenhouse fortunately hadn’t brought his Fastenal Ford to pit-road scoring the Roush Fenway Racing driver in the third position. The crew worked feverishly on resetting the toe in hopes to help the tightness for the final laps.

Stenhouse Jr. restarted in the sixth position with 31 laps remaining but was unable to hang on forcing him to settle with a 14th-place finish. 

Next up for Stenhouse and the No. 17 team is the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, March 24. Race coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. Coverage can also be heard on MRN and SIRIUS radio channel 90. 

RFR PR

Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

Started second, finished fourth and collected seven bonus points.

● Harvick fell to seventh and said the car was loose.

● On lap 25, Harvick was 11th and said the car was tight in turn two.

Harvick pitted on lap 28 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.

On lap 57, Harvick pitted for four tires and fuel.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):

Started third, finished sixth and collected five bonus points.

● Harvick, who was seventh, said his car was still tight in turn two.

● On lap 91 Harvick pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. He was in seventh.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 120-200):

Started second, finished fourth.

● On lap 123, Harvick pitted for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.

● The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang pitted on lap 161 for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustment.

● Harvick pitted again on lap 166 under caution for four tires and fuel.

● The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang came home in the fourth position.

 

Notes:

● Harvick earned his third top-five and fourth top-10 of the season, and his seventh top-five and 12th top-10 in 26 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway.

● Harvick finished fourth in Stage 1 to earn seven bonus points and sixth in Stage 2 to earn an additional five bonus points.

● Kyle Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Joey Logano was 2.354 seconds.

● This was Busch’s milestone 200th victory across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (53 wins), Xfinity Series (94 wins) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (53 wins).

● There were four caution periods for a total of 22 laps.

● Twenty-one of the 38 drivers in the Auto Club 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Busch leaves Auto Club Speedway as the championship leader with a 15-point advantage over second-place Logano.

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We raced well today. My guys did a great job on pit road. Our car was better than it was in practice. I didn’t have anything for the Penske cars or the 18 (Kyle Busch) car. They did a great job of racing hard all day, and we made a lot out of the West Coast swing with not very much. We have some work to do, but we know you still have to go race. Our Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang was okay today, and we got a decent finish.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Martinsville 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

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Brandon Lynn will return to the seat driving for Venturini Motorsports (VMS) in the ARCA Menards Series (ARCA) during the upcoming General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway on Friday, April 26. 

Lynn, 24, who made his ARCA Series debut in 2015, returns to the series after most recently competing in a pair of races last year with VMS earning top-10 finishes in both starts at Talladega Superspeedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

With ten-career ARCA starts under his belt, Lynn nearly won at Talladega in 2017 but fell victim to fuel mileage in an overtime thriller. Leading on the final lap in regulation, Lynn’s hopes emptied as he ran out of gas after a late race caution forced overtime. 

Lynn will make his only scheduled series start of the season driving VMS’ No.20 Toyota Camry (sponsorship to be announced) with Billy Venturini serving as crew chief. 

Hoping to make the most of his opportunity, last year’s seventh-place finisher is amped up and ready to get after it again. 

“Excited to have another shot at Talladega,” Lynn said.

“This will be my third shot at this track – the first two didn’t go our way but I’m hoping to capitalize this year with my Venturini Motorsports team. Last year we had an amazing car and I’m glad to be back in that same ride. It’s a fast car for sure. Definitely a lot more pressure this time as Harrison (Burton) got it done in the same car at Daytona. I’m ready to help pull off the superspeedway sweep for VMS with our number twenty Toyota Camry.”

All but three of Lynn’s 10 career ARCA starts have come on either intermediate or superspeedways tracks. With limited chances the New York native has posted four top-10 finishes. 

The General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway will air live on FS1 April 26 at 6:00pm EDT.

Follow Brandon Lynn on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @BLynnRacing.

VMS PR

Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

● Daniel Suárez started Stage 1 from the 20th position and ended the stage seventh to earn four stage points.

● On the first lap Suárez was able to work his way up to 11th position, and by lap three he was in eighth.

● The first caution of the race came out on lap 57, just before the end of the Stage 1 break, and the Mexican native pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help with his car’s tight condition.

● In the one-lap shootout to end the stage, the Haas driver maneuvered his way to seventh.

● Suárez didn’t make a pit stop during the Stage 1 break and began Stage 2 in fifth.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):

● The No. 41 driver started Stage 2 in fifth and completed it in 11th.

● The entirety of the stage ran under the green flag, but Suárez did complete one scheduled green-flag stop on lap 91 for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help with his tight-handling condition.

● The 27-year-old returned to the track under green and completed the stage in 11th.

● During the Stage 2 break, Suárez pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments and began the final stage in 14th.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 121-200):

● The Mexico native began the final stage in 14th and concluded it in 13th.

● On the first green-flag lap of the final stage, Suárez powered his way up to eighth. As the run ran long, he slipped back to 13th.

● By lap 144 he was back up to the 11th spot.

● On lap 160 Suárez made a scheduled green-flag pit stop from 11th for fuel and four tires. Shortly after the stop, the caution came out and forced Suárez and multiple competitors to take the wave-around.

● He restarted 15th on lap 169 and worked his up to 13th, where he ultimately finished the race.

 

Notes:

● Suárez earned his second top-15 of the season and his second top-15 in three career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway.

● Suárez finished seventh in Stage 1 to earn four bonus points.

● Kyle Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Joey Logano was 2.354 seconds.

● This was Busch’s milestone 200th victory across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (53 wins), Xfinity Series (94 wins) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (53 wins).

● There were four caution periods for a total of 22 laps.

● Twenty-one of the 38 drivers in the Auto Club 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Busch leaves Auto Club Speedway as the championship leader with a 15-point advantage over second-place Logano.

 

Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We had another good Haas Automation Mustang this weekend. We have a few things we have to clean up as a team with pit road, etc., but we had a good car. We had a top-10 car and we showed that at some points, but we’re still learning each other and we’ll get better and better the longer we work with each other.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Martinsville 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

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How intense a competitor is Kyle Busch?

The victories that elude him seem to bother him more than the wins he celebrates—even monumental ones.

You’d think that Kyle Busch would have been overcome with elation after collecting his 200th NASCAR national series victory in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. After all, that was a milestone goal Busch had announced years ago.

But when Busch crossed the finish line 2.354 seconds ahead of runner-up Joey Logano, his thoughts quickly turned to the wins that had gotten away.

Busch had come close in the March 3 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas, where he ran third. In Saturday’s Xfinity Series event at Auto Club, he dominated until a pit road penalty sent him to the back of the field. Busch rallied to finish second.

After the obligatory, “Oh, yes. Whoo, boy! Awesome race car!” when he crossed the finish line, Busch followed with “Can you imagine if I could have gotten Vegas and yesterday? How many in a row?”

That hate-to-lose attitude has propelled Busch to the 200-victory mark, and it may well carry him to his next goal—raising his Cup victory total from the current 53 to 100.

 

IN KYLE BUSCH’S SHADOW, KURT BUSCH POSTS SOLID RESULT

Sixth-place Kurt Busch had the highest-finishing Chevrolet in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, but his strong performance in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Camaro was overshadowed by the accomplishment of his brother, Kyle Busch, who claimed his 200th NASCAR national series victory in the same race.

Nevertheless, older brother Kurt shared in his brother’s achievement.

“This is a big day,” Kurt said. “For my little brother to have 200 wins, they’re all added up through his hard work and his dedication to perfection. Not bad for two kids with an attitude from Vegas.”

Though each driver has one championship to his credit—Kurt in 2004 and Kyle in 2015--Kyle now has 53 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories to 30 for his brother. And Kurt is well aware of the gap.

“I’ve got to hold up my end of the bargain,” Kurt quipped after falling from fourth to sixth in the final two laps of Sunday’s race. “I’ve gotten too nice, and I’m not winning enough--but I’m having fun.

“I love the Ganassi guys. Matt McCall (crew chief) wants more. I know he does. I want more. I was hoping for a top five today, but we’ll take it. All in all, we’re running where we need to be running.”

 

BRAD KESELOWSKI OVERCOMES EARLY BRUSH WITH THE WALL TO RUN THIRD

On Lap 43 of Sunday’s Auto Club 400, Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford brushed the outside wall and fell back in traffic.

Keselowski was 22nd for a restart with one lap left in the first stage of the race, but he didn’t stay there. Though a combination of pit strategy and determined driving, Keselowski charged forward after dodging a wreck on Lap 60.

On Lap 72, he passed teammate Joey Logano for second. And when eventual race winner Kyle Busch was slapped with a pit road speeding penalty under caution during the break after Stage 2, Keselowski led 38 straight laps and built a four-second lead before a timely caution on Lap 164 put Busch back in the mix for the win.

Ultimately, Keselowski finished third behind Busch and Logano, but he wasn’t fully satisfied with the performance of his car.

“We were a little off, really, all day,” Keselowski said. “We got a lot better from the first run to the end. We were so strong in practice. The track changing kind of threw us for a loop with the wind. Just never could get right off Turn 2. Ended up kind of costing us the race there with the 22 (Logano). I couldn’t stay in front.

“But the team, team Penske, these guys worked really hard on this car to get it back. I brushed the wall a little bit earlier. They fixed it, got us back. They kept working on it and (we) still had a solid day.”

Race Winner:    Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

● Kyle Busch started fourth, finished first.

● After starting from the fourth position, Busch jumped to third early and made his way to the second spot in his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota by lap 12.

● Busch took over the top spot on lap 13, and only briefly relinquished the lead when he pitted on lap 31 for four tires and fuel.

● Once returning to the track, the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota again took over first with 28 laps to go.

● A late-stage caution on lap 56 brought the Toyota down pit road for four tires and fuel, and Busch maintained the top spot at the conclusion of Stage 1.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):

● Started first, finished first.

● Busch dropped briefly at the start of Stage 2, but within three laps he was back to the top of the leaderboard.

● Green-flag pit stops started, and Busch brought his Toyota Camry down to pit road for four tires and fuel on lap 92 but managed to return to the track in the first position.

● Busch finished the second stage in the first position and reported he had gotten tighter the last 10 laps.

● The Interstate Batteries team went to work at the end of Stage 2, adjusting the air pressure, changing four tires and adding fuel. Unfortunately, a speeding penalty when returning to the track dropped him to the tail end of the lead lap for the start of the final stage.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 121-200):

● Started 18th, finished first.

● At the start of the final stage, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team had some work to do to get back to the front of the field, but it was evident quickly they were up for the challenge.

● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champ sliced his way through the field, moving up to 12th by lap 133, back into the top-10 by lap 137 and all the way up to fourth as green-flag pit stops began for the final time.

● As the laps wound down, while Busch sat in fourth, he was almost eight seconds behind the leader and needed a break to gain back the track position that was lost on the pit-road speeding penalty.

● Busch got the break he needed on lap 163 when the caution waved for debris. He came to pit road for four tires and fuel for the final time on lap 165, and the Interstate Batteries crew quickly returned Busch to the track as the first car that pitted.

● Busch lined up second on the final restart behind Ryan Blaney, who did not pit. On that restart, Blaney’s Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski slipped ahead of Busch. It didn’t take Busch long to gain his footing, passing both Logano and Keselowski at the exit of turn two on lap 175, and he never looked back, bringing home his 53rd career Cup win and his impressive 200th overall race win among NASCAR’s top three series.

 

Notes:

● Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Logano was 2.354 seconds.

● This was Busch’s milestone 200th victory across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (53 wins), Xfinity Series (94 wins) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (53 wins).

● Busch led seven times for a race-high 134 laps.

● This is Busch’s fourth top-five of the season and his 10th top-five in 21 career starts at Fontana.

● With his second consecutive Cup Series win, Busch has now won back-to-back races for the fourth straight year.

 

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:

You finally did it. It’s complete. How does 200 feel?

 

“Feels just like number one. Feels just like yesterday. Man, that was such an awesome racecar. I mean, dang. This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today. I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway. It takes green to get in victory lane today. Today is St. Patty’s day. All these other guys were at a disadvantage. The Interstate Batteries Green Machine was flying today. Just awesome. Just awesome. To win 200, I mean, whatever it means, it means a lot to me.  It means a lot to all my guys, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. You guys are all the best – Toyota, TRD. It’s an amazing opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs. I cherish every minute of it, love it always. Just wish that we could keep it going, keep it going like this, running strong, running well and winning these races.”

 

When that speeding penalty happened, what was going through your mind? Did you think your chances of winning this race and getting to 200 were maybe over?

 

“Yeah, that thought certainly crosses your mind. I knew we had a great racecar. We had a great racecar all day long. We were fast. 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. Brad (Keselowski) was really fast that run, he was way out front. We were catching the 22 (Joey Logano), the 4 (Kevin Harvick). If it went green to the end, I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. Sometimes you have to a little bit of luck on your side. Fortunately, we were in the Interstate Batteries green today with it being St. Patty’s day. Cool to get all these guys in victory lane. To win my 200th race with Interstate Batteries, with Norm Miller (Interstate Batteries), Scott Miller (Interstate Batteries), everybody that does such an awesome job of supporting us since day one, the reason why Joe Gibbs Racing exists. It certainly is a monumental moment for all of us, including M&M’s, Skittles, Snickers. Maybe the stars aligned a little bit more perfectly today.”

 

Do you pay attention to various milestones other than this number 200 accomplishment?

“It’s something that I don’t necessarily pay attention to. 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.”

 

Team Interstate Results:

● Kyle Busch (Finished 1st / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)

● Denny Hamlin (Finished 7th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)

● Martin Truex Jr. (Finished 8th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)

Erik Jones (Finished 19th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)

 

Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the STP 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

 

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Austin Dillon and the Dow Chevrolet Team Earn Solid, Top-10 Finish at Auto Club Speedway
 

10th 
 
 
 1st
 
 20th
"We had a really fast Dow Chevrolet this weekend and we have shown speed all year. We earned the pole award and ran well within the top-five until the end of Stage 1. I could feel the right-rear tire going down and brushed the outside wall. The No. 3 team did a great job keeping me on the lead lap during multiple pit stops for repairs. The Dow Chevrolet remained fast. It was just an uphill battle to reclaim track position. Through hard work, we were able to finish 10th. I'm so proud of this team."
-Austin Dillon
Contact with the Outside Wall Hurts Daniel Hemric's Top-10 Efforts in Fontana 
 

33rd 
 
 
17th
 
27th
"I hate it for everyone on this No. 8 Liberty National Life Insurance Chevrolet team. We had a strong run going and had worked from the 17th spot to racing inside the top 10 by the end of Stage 1. I was racing in heavy traffic once we went back green, and the air just sucked me up the track and I made contact with the outside wall exiting Turn 4. That damage cut the right rear tire and we had to pit under green to repair the damage. Unfortunately, we had another flat right rear, which caused even more damage. Nobody on this team gave up and I am proud of them for doing all they could to repair the damage. The car still had speed, but without the help of many cautions, we never really had the chance to get those laps back and then we had a flat left front in the closing laps, which hurt us even more."
 
-Daniel Hemric

RCR PR

Race Winner:      Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

Bowyer started ninth and finished 14th.

● Initially reported a loose car, but handling improved as the race progressed.

● Climbed to eighth by lap 25, then reported the engine had possibly lost a cylinder and had a vibration.

● Crew kept him out on the track when the first caution flew on lap 56 with just one green-flag lap left in the stage.

● Bowyer restarted second but couldn’t keep pace and dropped to 14th.

● Crew replaced spark plug and wire during the stage break but determined the issue was within the engine.

● Bowyer returned to the track in 30th and a lap behind the leaders, hoping to nurse his car to the end.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):

Bowyer started 30th and finished 25th.

● Crew kept Bowyer on the track during a long green-flag run, gambling he could stay in the free-pass position to regain the lost lap in the event of a caution. However, heavy contact from Corey Lajoie’s car caused tire damage that forced Bowyer to the pits and took him down a second lap.

● Bowyer pitted during the stage break to repair the damage.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 121 -200):

Bowyer started 25th and finished 38th.

● Bowyer’s day ended after 130 laps when smoke began pouring from the No. 14 and he drove it to the garage.

 

Notes:

●  Kyle Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Joey Logano was 2.354 seconds.

●  This was Busch’s milestone 200th victory across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (53 wins), Xfinity Series (94 wins) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (53 wins).

●  There were four caution periods for a total of 22 laps.

●  Twenty-one of the 38 drivers in the Auto Club 400 finished on the lead lap.

●  Busch leaves Auto Club Speedway as the championship leader with a 15-point advantage over second-place Logano.

 

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang:

“I felt like we had the car dialed in today better than we had all weekend, and we were looking pretty good early. But she started vibrating and you could smell something, so we were probably on borrowed time. I’m disappointed for the Rush and Haas folks who came out today hoping to see us run up front.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Martinsville 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

TSC PR

Race Winner:    Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner:Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

● Started third, finished sixth and earned five bonus points.

● The Smithfield Farmer John Ford Mustang made its way to the front of the pack on lap three and led for seven laps.

● On lap 30 Almirola pitted for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments to correct loose-handling conditions.

● He exited pit road in third and held that position until a lap-55 caution.

● The green flag waved with just one lap to go, and Almirola avoided a spin by the No. 17 car to finish just outside the top-five.

● He pitted the Smithfield Farmer John Ford at the end of the stage for four more tires, fuel and adjustments.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):

● Started third, finished fifth and earned six bonus points.

● Almirola started Stage 2 racing as high as second. He pitted under green on lap 90 for four tires, fuel and adjustments to match the balance of the car at the beginning of the race, but he said the No. 10 needed more rear grip.

● He exited pit road in seventh and raced back to the top-five by lap 111.

● Almirola pitted the No. 10 Ford Mustang for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments at the conclusion of Stage 2.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 121-200):

● Started sixth and finished ninth.

● Almirola was caught in the middle of a three-wide pack with no help and was demoted to 10th at the start of the final stage.

● He raced back to sixth and pitted under green again for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.

● A caution was called just four laps later causing the Smithfield Farmer John Ford team to restart ninth.

● Almirola battled in and around the top-10 for the remainder of the race and earned his first top-10 at Auto Club Speedway.

 

Notes:

● Almirola earned his fourth top-10 of the season and his first top-10 in 12 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway. 

● Almirola’s ninth-place result bettered his previous best finish at Auto Club Speedway – 11th in the 2015 Auto Club 400.

● Almirola finished sixth in Stage 1 to earn five bonus points and fifth in Stage 2 to earn an additional six bonus points.

● Almirola led one time for seven laps – his first laps led at Auto Club Speedway.

● Kyle Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Joey Logan was 2.354 seconds.

● There were four caution periods for a total of 22 laps.

● Only 21 of the 38 drivers in the Auto Club 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Busch leaves Auto Club Speedway as the championship leader with a 15-point advantage over second-place Joey Logano.

 

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Farmer John Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 “I thought that was a very typical California race. The restarts were wild and crazy like we always see here, and track position was king. We got strung out and fought track position a lot today. The cars are very difficult to drive in the wake of air of the cars in front of you. It is very challenging. The restarts are definitely exciting. The fans get their money’s worth. All in all it was a great day for our Farmer John Ford Mustang. We got to lead some laps in the beginning. We had a top-six car and lost some track position, and that is all we could do to muster you a ninth-place finish.”

 

Next Up: 

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Martinsville 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

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Let the debate begin.

Recovering from a pit road speeding penalty with the help of a timely caution, Kyle Busch collected his 200th NASCAR national series victory with a dominating win in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

At the same venue that gave Busch his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in 2005, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota beat runner-up Joey Logano to the finish line by a comfortable 2.354 seconds to earn his 53rd win in the series and his second straight this season.

With 53 victories in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and 94 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series—both records—Busch reached the milestone a day after a pit road penalty cost him a chance to hit the magic number in the Xfinity race at the two-mile track.

But on Sunday, he overcame the pit road speeding penalty incurred during the break after Stage 2 and powered back to the lead with 26 laps left. Now Busch will leave it to others to debate where his 200 victories stack up against the record 200 Cup wins accumulated by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty.

Driving a Day-Glo green Camry carrying the livery of long-time sponsor Interstate Batteries, Busch led 134 of 200 laps despite the penalty and became the season’s first multiple winner.

“Feels just like number one,” Busch said after taking the checkered flag. “Feels just like yesterday. Man, that was such an awesome race car. I mean, dang! This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today. I'm glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway.

“It takes green to get in Victory Lane today. Today is St. Patty's day. All these other guys were at a disadvantage. The Interstate Batteries Green Machine was flying today. Just awesome. Just awesome. To win 200, I mean, whatever it means, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to all my guys, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. You guys are all the best.

“It's an amazing opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs. I cherish every minute of it, love it always. Just wish that we could keep it going, keep it going like this, running strong, running well, and winning these races.”

Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens helped put the milestone in perspective.

“Two hundred is just another number,” Stevens said. “He was going to get there—it was inevitable. But it’s an honor to be the guy on the pit box when he does it.”

Brad Keselowski came home third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney, as Ford drivers grabbed the next four positions behind Busch’s Toyota. Sixth-place Kurt Busch, brother of the race winner, drove the highest-finishing Chevrolet.

As he had done a day earlier in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Kyle Busch swept the first and second stages of the Auto Club 400. But if Busch sailed to the stage wins with relative ease—finishing more than five seconds ahead of second-place Brad Keselowski in Stage 2—other potential contenders had issues in the early going that cost them dearly.

For Clint Bowyer, it was simply a matter of a sour engine that caused him to fall two laps down by the end of the second stage. For pole winner Austin Dillon, it was a flat right rear tire that interrupted a promising top-five run with four laps left in the first stage. Dillon battled back to finish 10th.

For defending race winner Martin Truex Jr., it was hard contact with the No. 17 Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in Turn 2 after a restart on Lap 60. The accident, which caused extensive damage to the right rear of Truex’s No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, took the 2017 out of contention. Nevertheless, Truex soldiered on to an eighth-place result.

The race winner had a turn with adversity, too. His stroll to victory in the Inland Empire hit a major obstacle with the pit road speeding penalty under caution during the break after Stage 2. After restarting 18th on Lap 128, Busch diced his way through the field and was running fifth at the start of a green-flag pit stop cycle on Lap 160.

Stevens kept Busch on the track after all the other frontrunners had come to pit road, and on Lap 164, the gamble was rewarded. The left front tire on Bubba Wallace’s Chevrolet exploded, strewing debris on the track and causing the caution Busch desperately needed.

With fresh tires after a pit stop on Lap 166, Busch restarted second on Lap 170, fell back to fourth briefly and but charged forward and passed Logano for the lead on Lap 175. Game over.

“We only raced for two laps before the 18 blew our doors off and drove away from us,” Logano said. “Fastest car in the race. We’ve got a little bit of work to do.

“Solid run for the Auto Club Mustang here. You want to win at your sponsor's home track. Gosh, we came so close. Proud of the effort. Hung in there all day, hung strong. Just didn't have enough for the green car.”

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