Getty Images

Larson holds off late rally by Logano to win Xfinity race at Fontana

1 Comment

Kyle Larson held off a late surge by Joey Logano to win Saturday’s Service King 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Logano and Larson jousted for the lead over the last 20 laps, but it wasn’t until a final restart with four laps to go that allowed Larson to gain an advantage and remain ahead of Logano the rest of the way to the checkered flag.

Larson won by 0.127 seconds over Logano to earn his sixth career triumph in the Xfinity Series, including the second at Fontana in his home state.

“The racing there at the end with Joey was awesome,” Larson said on Fox Sports 1. “We just had a couple lap fresher tires than he did and was able to chase him down. I was trying to be patient.

“… It was a heck of a race. I honestly didn’t think we’d be here yesterday. I was struggling bad in practice, fought the balance a lot throughout the race, and then finally the last two runs we hit it.”

Kyle Busch finished third, followed by Erik Jones and William Byron.

Sixth through 10th were Darrell Wallace Jr., Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole, Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon.

MORE: Race results of Service King 300 Xfinity Series race at Fontana

MORE: NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings after Service King 300 at Fontana

Despite finishing second, Logano was exceptional and overcame several bits of adversity, including a pit road speeding penalty.

Then on Lap 96 Logano was leading and suffered a major pit malfunction. A jack broke before crew members were able to put left-side tires on, leaving the car on the ground.

NASCAR officials allowed Logano’s team to use a second jack, helping the team finally lift the left side of the car. Logano returned to the track in 26th but quickly worked his way back to the lead with 32 laps left.

Unofficially, Logano gained more than 60 positions on the racetrack from start to finish.

Larson now goes for a second consecutive win, starting from the pole in the weekend’s main event: Sunday’s Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup race at the 2-mile oval about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I’m happy, this is our second win here in California, and I hope we can do it again tomorrow,” Logano told FS1.

Winner of first stage (laps 1-35): Kyle Busch

Winner of second stage (laps 36-70): Kyle Busch

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Six-time Fontana Xfinity winner Kyle Busch struggled at times, but like Logano, kept finding – and fighting – his way back to the front, finishing third. … Rookie William Byron finished fifth, giving him back-to-back top-five Xfinity finishes (he was fourth at Phoenix last week).

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Paul Menard was running fourth on Lap 94 when he was pushed into the wall by Erik Jones. Menard’s car caught fire, but he escaped unharmed. Menard finished 36th. … A small fire also started when Cole Custer wrecked on Lap 106. He was OK and finished 35th.

NOTABLE: Logano led the most laps (70) in the 150-lap event. Kyle Busch led 55 laps and Larson 21. … The No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was ruled to have an improperly installed lug nut during post-race inspection. Also, the cars of Larson, Logano and Kyle Busch were taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center for routine inspection.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’ll start from the pole and hopefully be right here tomorrow.” – Race winner Kyle Larson, who has four runner-up finishes in his past five Cup starts (dating to last season), including the past three races.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series is off next weekend (the Camping World Truck Series returns from hiatus). Both the Trucks and the Cup Series will compete at Martinsville Speedway. The Xfinity Series returns with the My Bariatric Solutions 300 on April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Yes, there is NASCAR racing Sunday: Xfinity entry list for Road America

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Who says there’s no NASCAR racing this weekend?

Sure, the NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series will enjoy the weekend off, but not the Xfinity Series.

Drivers in that series will be competing Sunday at what has become one of the most challenging and popular road courses on the Xfinity schedule: the twisting 4.048-mile road course at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

A total of 42 cars are listed on the preliminary entry list released Monday.

Only 40 cars will qualify to race in Sunday’s Johnsonville 180 (3 p.m. ET on NBC). This will be the third road course the series has raced on in the last four races.

One driver position and one crew chief position remain to be filled.

  • Team JD Motorsports has not named a driver for the No. 15 Chevrolet.
  • And the No. 172 Chevrolet, driven by John Jackson and owned by James Carter, has yet to name a crew chief for the race.

This will be the eighth Xfinity race at Road America since the series first visited there in 2010.

The winners since then have been Carl Edwards (2010), Reed Sorenson (2011), Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), A.J. Allmendinger (2013), Brendan Gaughan (2014), Paul Menard (2015) and Michael McDowell last year.

Click here for the preliminary entry list for Sunday’s Xfinity race at Road America.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

NASCAR America: Erik Jones ‘has to be put on the radar for Darlington, Richmond’ (video)

Leave a comment

Like a stealthy cat sneaking up on a mouse, Erik Jones has been riding under the radar the last four races.

Few may realize that he’s had a pair of top-10s (8th at Pocono; 10th at Watkins Glen) and back-to-back career bests in his last two starts (tied his previous career best with a 3rd-place finish at Michigan, and then was runner-up Saturday at Bristol).

“It’s just been a consistent upward trend from the start of the year,” Steve Letarte said on Monday’s NASCAR America.

Not only did Jones finish second to winner Kyle Busch at Bristol, he also started from the pole and led 260 of the 500 scheduled laps (while Busch led 156).

“I thought he did such a good job,” Jeff Burton also said on Monday’s episode of NA. “He didn’t lose the race because of a mistake, they just got out-run by someone who’s real, real good at Bristol.”

With Darlington and Richmond still ahead to make — or miss — the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Letarte said Jones can readily win either of those races.

“We’re forced to put him on our radar for Darlington,” Letarte said. “Maybe, maybe not, it’s a tough race track. We’ll see, first time there in a Cup car.

“But Richmond, this is a short track racer going to a short track. I don’t know if Erik Jones can be ruled out at any of the upcoming two tracks.”

If the young Michigan native, who is also the leading candidate for NASCAR Cup rookie of the year, does win at either Darlington or Richmond, he could ultimately have a profound impact on the playoffs.

A win at either track would serve to potentially eliminate the likes of Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and maybe even Chase Elliott, who are all above the cutoff line to make the playoffs.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Long: Love him or hate him, Kyle Busch is what NASCAR needs

3 Comments

For as much as Kyle Busch’s sweep of the Truck, Xfinity and Cup races at Bristol Motor Speedway turned some fans off, it was what NASCAR needed.

Even better, Busch understood.

After he won Saturday night’s Cup race, Busch goaded booing fans by putting his fingers to his ears, prompting more catcalls.

He walked to the back of his car and raised three fingers — for his three wins last week — as the boos (and cheers) grew louder.

And he smiled, a winner’s grin but also one of somebody who proved the doubters wrong. Again.

Part superstar, part showman.

The good guy to his fans, Busch also can be cast as the villain to the rest of the fanbase. He’s accepted that role, embraced it and learned how to egg on the haters in the stands and the trolls on social media. 

Sports is about us against them. While fans have their favorite drivers and teams, there remains the need to root against someone or some team. Without that distinction, sports would be as anticlimactic as a youth game — pick the sport: baseball, football, basketball, etc. — where no score is kept. That’s called recess.

Without Kyle Busch, who would make sane people insane and cause alcohol-fueled fans to do things they tell their children never to do? The new drivers haven’t been around long enough to anger the fan base. Maybe Kurt Busch could fill the role because anyone with the name Busch is more inclined to be booed. There are other drivers who have their detractors but not as much as Kyle Busch based on the visceral reaction he gets at many tracks.

“The best of the best that have won here have been booed … for a long, long time,’’ Busch said after his second Cup win of the season. “So I’m fine with that.’’

Busch follows a history of drivers that fans loathed (and some loved). Before Busch, it was Tony Stewart. He inherited the mantle after Dale Earnhardt, who took it from Darrell Waltrip and so on.

Earnhardt made the image of a villain into a cottage industry. For every boo and middle finger he received, he just smirked and kept on winning, infuriating his haters and thrilling his fans.

When Earnhardt was introduced before races, many fans didn’t sit. They stood to cheer or show how much they despised the seven-time champion.

Rarely was the anger as intense as the 1999 Bristol night race when Earnhardt spun Terry Labonte out of the lead on the final lap. Earnhardt said he “meant to rattle his cage.’’ Didn’t matter. Boos cascaded down the packed stands. Several minutes later, the track replayed the radio broadcast of the final laps on the P.A. system and when it came to the moment Earnhardt turned Labonte, a heavy chorus of boos reverberated throughout the stands from fans not yet ready to leave.

At 32 years old, Busch can grow more into such a role for years to come. And win more than his one championship.

Having not yet reached his prime, Busch is likely to keep winning — Saturday was his 40th Cup victory to tie Mark Martin for 17th on the all-time wins list. At his current rate, Busch will climb into the top 10 wins list before he retires. Busch can further irritate fans by also winning Truck and Xfinity races.

Us against them.

Yes, Busch will make fans cheer and boo for years to come.

“I’m sure they’re still booing, whining and crying all the way home tonight,’’ Busch said well after his win Saturday night. “They’re driving home mad, so people be careful.

“But, you know, my people get to go home safe and secure and slow and steady and patient because they get to celebrate.’’

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America live 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Kyle Busch sweep recap, Erik Jones

NBC Sports
Leave a comment

Today’s edition of NASCAR America airs from 6 to 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Kelli Stavast joins Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte from NBC Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • For just the second time in NASCAR history, a driver was able to win in all three national series in a single race weekend. In both occurrences, the feat was performed by the same driver, Kyle Busch, and at the same venue, Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch collected his first sweep in 2010, and came back to do it again this past weekend at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. We’ll hear from Kyle after his victory on Saturday and examine how this affects the current playoff picture.
  • Erik Jones did everything in Saturday’s Bristol Night Race but win. It was a great weekend for the rookie NASCAR Cup driver from Furniture Row Racing. The leading contender for Cup rookie of the year earned his first pole, led a race-high 260 laps, but finished second to Kyle Busch. How soon will it be before Jones gets to victory lane? Our panel discusses that.
  • Eclipse fever has spread to NASCAR. We’ll take a look at how drivers and tracks appreciated this natural phenomenon today.
  • We interview Kyle Larson at today’s announcement of a new sponsor at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.