Auto Club Speedway

March 23 in NASCAR History: The Kyle and Kyle Show at Auto Club Speedway

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If your name was Kyle, you had a good weekend in Fontana, California, in March 2014.

On Saturday, March 22, Kyle Larson got it rolling by pulling off an upset win in the Xfinity Series race over Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Larson passed Busch for the lead with five laps to go and then held off four straight dive-bomb pass attempts by Harvick in Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.

On Sunday, March, 23, it came down to Larson and Busch.

In an overtime finish, Busch and Larson navigated their way through a wild restart and passed the Stewart-Haas Racing teammates of Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the last lap.

Kyle Busch held off Larson’s pass attempt in the final turn and cruised to his second straight Auto Club 400 win.

A rookie that year, the runner-up finish was Larson’s first career top five. He wouldn’t earn his first win until 2016 at Auto Club’s sister track, Michigan International Speedway.

Also on this date:

1969: Bobby Allison won the Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He led the final eight laps after David Pearson dropped out with an expired engine. Allison won over LeeRoy Yarbrough by four laps.

1975: Richard Petty beat Buddy Baker in a one-lap dash to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was Petty’s third win in six races to start the season and he’d win the following race at North Wilkesboro for his third consecutive victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. revisited the race on his old show “Back in the Day.”

2003: In a two-lap shootout, Dennis Setzer beat Jon Wood in a Truck Series race at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California. It would be the final visit to the half-mile track by the Truck Series after holding nine races there.

March 19 in NASCAR history: Austin Dillon steals Xfinity win at Auto Club in 2016

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On March 19, 2016, Kyle Busch looked well on his way to winning his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series race to begin the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 133 of 200 laps in a race at Auto Club Speedway.

Then on Lap 200, moments after taking the white flag, Busch’s left-front tire gave out. That allowed teammate Daniel Suarez to speed by in Turn 2.

But Suarez’ time in the lead was short lived. His No. 19 Toyota had barely exited the turn when it ran out of gas.

With Suarez falling off the pace on the apron, Busch was able to drive his wounded car back to the point position entering Turn 3.

With Busch limping along, Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet pounced in Turn 4. Dillon darted to the outside of Busch and scrapped the wall as he navigated a small hole left by Busch.

Dillon drove away to lead his only lap of the race and to claim his seventh career Xfinity win.

“I was worried about our fuel, stayed focus on that the whole time,” Dillon told Fox Sports. “(Busch) tried to screw me there at the end, but didn’t work out for him, did it?”

Busch would bounce back to win the following week at Texas. He would go on to win 10 times in 17 Xfinity starts that year.

Also on this date:

1995: After a five-year break from the track, David Green wins in the Xfinity Series’ return to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

2000: Ward Burton ended a five-year winless streak in the Cup Series with a victory at Darlington Raceway. It was his second of five career wins, all with Bill Davis Racing.

Engine change will send Martin Truex Jr. to the rear

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Martin Truex Jr. will start at the rear in Sunday’s Cup race at Phoenix Raceway because of an engine change.

The team changed engines Saturday morning after finding an issue following Friday’s final practice session.

This has not been a good weekend for Truex. He was penalized 30 minutes of practice in Friday’s final session for failing inspection three times last weekend at Auto Club Speedway. He was not allowed to qualify because of those failures and started last weekend’s race at the rear.

Truex was 25th in final practice. He ranked 17th in best average over 10 consecutive laps in the final session.

Truex will still qualify Saturday for pit stall selection.

Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson discuss Auto Club incident

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Kyle Larson said he knew Denny Hamlin didn’t intentionally wreck him in last weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway and was appreciative of car owner Chip Ganassi’s defense on social media.

Hamlin and Larson were both on the Barstool Sports podcast “Rubbin is Racing” with Dave Portnoy and Clint Bowyer. The podcast was released Thursday morning.

Portnoy talked to Hamlin and Larson about their incident on the track at Auto Club Speedway, Hamlin’s social media video later that night of running into the back of Larson with a shopping cart and Chip Ganassi’s response on Twitter, calling Hamlin’s video #badtaste.

Hamlin explained on the Barstool Sports podcast his contact that caused Larson to hit the wall early in the race.

He knows that I’m not trying to do it intentionally,” Hamlin said of Larson. “He knows that I’m trying to help him. I just screwed up while I was trying to help him.”

Said Larson on the podcast: “Obviously, I also knew that it wasn’t on purpose, the wreck anyways. I was mad. I got put into the fence and my day was done, and I had to ride around way off the pace for two-and-a-half hours, so that wasn’t fun.

“We talked after the race. Like I said, I knew it wasn’t on purpose. I spent all race already being mad. I knew we were going to hang out all week in Phoenix, so why keep things awkward or make them more awkward than they should be? We race 38 weekends together a year. (Expletive) is going to happen every now and then.

“I think stuff that happens on the racetrack shouldn’t get in the middle of what you guys do off the racetrack, especially if it is not on purpose. It is what it is. I support Chip having my back. I think that is pretty cool. Like I said it wasn’t on purpose. At least I can get (Hamlin) back maybe someday and have an excuse.”

Bowyer then asked Larson if he thought about wrecking Hamlin after the incident.

“I did joke,” Larson said on the podcast chuckling, “I joked with him after the race, I said ‘Crazy how much stuff will run through your mind in a split second.’ I was ready …

Bowyer added: “You had such a good opportunity.”

Larson continued: “I was going to put him in the fence and then I’m like it’s a long drive to Scottsdale, I’m supposed to fly with him, I want to golf at all these nice courses this week, so I ended up not turning him into the fence, which I’m glad I didn’t.

“Yeah, because that would have hurt,” Hamlin interjected.

Larson continued: “Even if we didn’t have plans this week, we’re hauling ass into (Turn) 1 and he’s already broke his back once there, I wouldn’t want to do it again.”

Hamlin suffered a fractured L1 vertebra in a last-lap crash in 2013 at Auto Club Speedway.

As for the video, which has been viewed more than 450,000 times on Twitter, Hamlin said: “From my standpoint, we were just trying to make light of a bad situation and that was probably it. I understand Chip’s point of view, but I also think that saying bad taste, I don’t know, I was just tying to make a joke. Evidently 10,000 people that liked it thought it was funny too.”

Hamlin said Larson had no idea what Hamlin was going to do in the video.

“He didn’t see it coming,” Hamlin said on the podcast. “He didn’t see it coming. Ricky Stenhouse is there pushing the second cart and we were going down the aisle because we were grocery shopping for the house we’re at and I said, ‘Ricky get your camera out and give me that cart.’

Said Larson: “I could see them scheming something and they were kind of whispering to each other away from me, so I thought it was about me, but I didn’t know what was going on.”

Chip Ganassi chides Denny Hamlin for video

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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Car owner Chip Ganassi was not amused with a video Denny Hamlin posted Sunday night showing Hamlin bumping into the back of friend Kyle Larson while they were grocery shopping.

Hamlin’s video came hours after his push got Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing car out of control and hit the wall early in the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Larson was running 13th and Hamlin 14th when Hamlin pushed Larson into Turn 1 on Lap 34. Larson’s car wiggled and hit the wall. Larson fell off the lead lap for repairs and went on to finish 21st.

A few hours later, Hamlin posted the video of he and Larson in the grocery store with Hamlin re-enacting the incident on the track with a shopping cart. The video had been viewed more than a quarter of a million times by Tuesday morning.

Ganassi tweeted Tuesday morning that Hamlin’s video was #badtaste:

Hamlin, who had tweeted earlier about playing golf Tuesday in Arizona, responded shortly after 9 p.m. ET.