Bump & Run: Who had best, worst West Coast Swing?

Leave a comment

Who had the best West Coast Swing?

Nate Ryan: Team Penske. Kyle Busch turned in the best individual performance, but the trio of Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney posted the best across-the-board effort by any team.

Dustin Long: Kyle Busch. Five wins in seven national series races (should have gone seven for seven).

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Busch easily. Of the seven races he entered, he won five and placed in the top three in the other two.

Jerry Bonkowski: With two wins and a third-place finish in the West Coast swing, there’s no other choice but Kyle Busch. Other drivers that had a good run include Kurt Busch (fifth-seventh-sixth), Joey Logano (one win, one runner-up and one 10th-place finish) and Kevin Harvick (two fourth-place finishes and a ninth-place).

 

Who had the worst West Coast Swing?

Nate Ryan: Ryan Preece. After three consecutive finishes outside the top 20 (while his teammate notched three straight top 20s), the outstanding showing at the Daytona 500 must seem much further away than a month ago.

Dustin Long: Those hoping the rule changes would dramatically alter the racing and alter who the best teams would be.

Daniel McFadin: Has anyone seen Ryan Newman? While his teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has shown glimpses of improvement, including at Las Vegas, the No. 6 Ford has been missing in action. Newman’s West Coast Swing was made up of finishes of 24th (Vegas), 12th (Phoenix) and 22nd (Auto Club). He has no top 10s through five races.

Jerry Bonkowski: With finishes of 22nd (Las Vegas), 26th (Phoenix) and 30th (Fontana), Bubba Wallace ranks 30th after the West Coast swing. He’s way behind the eight ball after just five races. About the only chance Wallace has to make the playoffs is to get a win in the next 21 races.

 

If you were seeding the Cup field like the NCAA tournament, who would be your four No. 1 seeds after five races?

Nate Ryan: Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick.

Dustin Long: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch

Jerry Bonkowski: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin.

 

Bigger Chevrolet surprise: That Kurt Busch has four consecutive top 10s or Hendrick Motorsports has no top fives this season?

Nate Ryan: Busch seemed reinvigorated toward the end of last season, and Chip Ganassi Racing made the necessary moves to shore up its performance this season, so while the No. 1’s consistency has been unexpectedly stellar, it’s less of a stunner than Hendrick. It’s been 19 years since the team went five races into a season without a top five. Yes, there’ve been flashes of speed by each driver, but the statistics don’t get any plainer than that. Hendrick will need to show it has made progress by Texas Motor Speedway next week.

Dustin Long: Kurt Busch. I like how this team has performed at the beginning of the season but Busch told me after Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway that for all that has gone well for them with finishes, they need to qualify better to gain more stage points. He scored only four stage points during the West Coast races.

Daniel McFadin: Kurt Busch’s remarkable consistency. He entered a car that had just two top fives last year and matched it in the first four races. Last year, Busch didn’t earn his fourth top 10 until he placed second at Talladega in race No. 10. Hendrick is still working itself out of a rut that started two years ago.

Jerry Bonkowski: Tough question. Busch is the most pleasant surprise for Chevy, for sure. But Hendrick Motorsports is the biggest surprise overall – and that’s not a good thing – in the bowtie camp, as all four of its drivers are already more than 100 points behind points leader Kyle Busch after five races and Chase Elliott is the highest-ranked HMS pilot in 12th place.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway

Getty Images
3 Comments

Cole Custer won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway, beating Kyle Busch for his third career Xfinity win.

Custer, a native of Ladera Ranch, California, led the final 19 laps, scoring his first victory since last fall’s playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It means a ton,” Custer told Fox Sports 1. “To start the year off with a new crew chief in Mike (Shiplett) and a new engineer in Davin (Restivo), they just did a good job in coming over here, just trying to work through all the things. We’ve been a little frustrated with ourselves, we’ve been wanting to run better than fourth and top five. But today we accomplished that.”

Custer is the first non-Cup competitor to win at ACS since Scott Riggs in April 2002 (23 races).

“Kyle Busch is one of the legends of our sport,” Custer said. “To keep him … from getting 200 (NASCAR wins) means a lot. I am sure he is probably a little frustrated but we have a great time racing him and hopefully we do it more in the future.”

Busch, who led 98 of 150 laps, finished second after he bounced back from an uncontrolled tire penalty on pit road in the middle of the final stage. That forced him to restart 13th with 33 laps to go. Busch will have to wait at least one more day to earn his 200th national NASCAR series win.

“I just wasn’t fast enough,” Busch said. “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.”

The top five was completed by Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe.

Reddick fought back from an unscheduled pit stop for a cut tire on Lap 108 to earn his top five.

Austin Cindric (sixth), Brandon Jones (seventh) and Ryan Preece (eighth) all bounced back from spins to place in the top 10.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

Click here for race results

Click here for the point standings.

WHAT’S NEXT: My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway at 1 p.m. ET on March 30 on Fox Sports 1

Xfinity practice report from Fontana

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Justin Allgaier wrapped up the second and final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway with the top speed (178.059 mph).

Tyler Reddick was second fastest (177.139), followed by Christopher Bell (176.956), Kyle Busch (176.670) and Noah Gragson (176.432).

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Preece (176.280), Cole Custer (176.061), Chase Briscoe (175.794), John Hunter Nemechek (175.640) and Brandon Jones (175.200).

A total of 34 drivers took to the track in the session.

Qualifying will take place Saturday at 1:10 p.m. ET.

A few hours later, the Production Alliance Group 300 race (150 laps/300 miles) will take the green flag at 5 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Click here for the full second practice speed chart.

FIRST PRACTICE:

Cole Custer was fastest in the first of two Xfinity Series practices Friday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

The Stewart Haas Racing driver roared around the 2-mile high speed oval in his Ford Mustang at 177.039 mph, the only driver to exceed 177 mph.

Christopher Bell was second fastest (176.882 mph), followed by the man who is getting the most attention this weekend, Kyle Busch (176.350 mph), who is seeking to become only the second driver in NASCAR history to reach 200 wins in a career.

Busch comes into this weekend with 199 career NASCAR wins: 52 in Cup, 53 in Trucks and 94 in Xfinity. He can reach 200 with a win in Saturday’s Xfinity race or in Sunday’s Cup event.

Tyler Reddick was fourth fastest in the session (175.970 mph), leading a surge of five Chevy drivers in a row, followed by Justin Allgaier in fifth (175.833), Noah Gragson (175.653), Jeremy Clements (174.834) and John Hunter Nemechek (174.478).

Rounding out the top 10 were Austin Cindric (174.338 mph) and Ryan Preece (174.350).

The final Xfinity practice will take place later this afternoon from 4:35 to 5:25 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full Xfinity practice speed chart.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Updated entry lists for NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR’s annual three-race West Coast Swing concludes this weekend with Cup and Xfinity teams competing at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup – Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

A total of 38 cars are entered, including the 36 chartered cars.

Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet will be driven by Garrett Smithley. It will be his second start for the team. Reed Sorenson is in a second entry for Premium Motorsports (No. 27 car).

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Production Alliance Group 300 (5 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

As was the case at Phoenix, there are 37 cars entered for the race at Fontana.

Cup drivers in the field include Kyle Busch, who can reach 200 career NASCAR wins with a victory, Ryan Preece and Ross Chastain.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America: Turning Point in Phoenix Cup race

Leave a comment

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty discussed what was the turning point in Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway.

To all three, restarts – particularly two of the last three – were the turning point that allowed Kyle Busch to win and Ryan Blaney to still finish third despite running low on both fuel and tire tread in the closing laps.

This is it, the third to last restart,” Burton said, looking at the video. “Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch line up and in front of them is Kevin Harvick, on two tires. On this restart, Kevin Harvick gets put in the middle and now he’s in no-man’s land and is just going backwards.”

Letarte, meanwhile, pointed to the second-to-last restart following a single-car incident where Ryan Preece hit the wall, where Harvick fell back even further. On the surface, it was just two spots, but in reality, it likely cost Harvick any remaining chance to win.

“It’s just two spots, how bad can two spots be?” Letarte asked. “They come out on the backstretch, an accident comes out with Preece, the caution comes out and that’s an entire row. (Losing) two spots on a restart makes a huge difference because that sets them up for the next restart and now he’s (Harvick) behind Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch.”

Added Kyle Petty, “Yes, (Harvick is) behind them, and on that restart, watch where that row goes, watch where Blaney and where Kyle Busch goes, and then watch the 4 car of Kevin Harvick. He’s not so much in no-man’s land, they just split him on both sides, which just totally takes him out.”

Burton chimed back in, adding:

(Harvick) said his car just didn’t go on two tires,” Burton said. “Blaney on the outside makes the move, then Harvick on the bottom gets into (Jimmie) Johnson and that slows his momentum. Then watch both sides of him, inside and outside, they split him and now his momentum is dead and you’re now in the middle driving into Turn 3 at Phoenix and that’s trouble. In those two restarts … Kevin Harvick, because of his two tires, his car not driving well, didn’t like the way it drove, got put in a bad spot. Boom, right there, his chance to win the race is gone.”

Letarte wrapped up the analysis by putting everything in perspective and why Harvick fell short and finished ninth: “Every driver said track position (was key during the race). Two restarts, eight positions (lost), game over. You’re not going to make that back.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski