Fontana: Kyle Busch race report

Busch Scores Second Consecutive Fourth-Place Finish Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, finished fourth in the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California...

Busch Scores Second Consecutive Fourth-Place Finish

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, finished fourth in the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California in Fontana.

The fourth-place finish was Busch's second consecutive top-five result, as he finished fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500. More importantly, the top-five finishes have vaulted Busch and the Interstate Batteries team atop the Sprint Cup point standings.

It marks the first time Busch or a Toyota-powered car has led the point standings. It's also the first time Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 car has led the points since Nov. 12, 2000 when former driver Bobby Labonte clinched the 2000 Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It's a good championship points day," said Busch, who led once for 14 laps. "It was pretty cool out there to run the way we did in our Interstate Batteries Toyota. Unfortunately, we didn't have quite the car to get up there and contend with those boys at the end, but overall a good day and that's all we can ask for."

The race, originally scheduled for 1 p.m. PST on Sunday, did not begin until nearly two-and-a-half hours later due to wet weather.

Heavy rains that had uncharacteristically doused the Southern California track raised the water table considerably, and no matter how hard safety crews attempted to dry the track, water would bubble up and seep through cracks and seams in the track's surface. "Weeping," as drivers referred to it, was especially pronounced in the track's corners, and NASCAR needed to halt the race for a little over an hour after a multi-car crash on lap 21 was triggered when Casey Mears lost control of his car after it broke traction on one of the wet spots in the track's corners.

Racing resumed on lap 26, but stuttered to a stop when light rain returned from lap 41 to lap 47, and again on lap 87 when heavy rain forced NASCAR to red flag the race a second time. Try as they might, safety crews could not dry the track once the rain had abated, as water continued to seep onto the racing surface. Finally, NASCAR made the call to restart the race at 10 a.m. PST on Monday.

On Sunday and Monday, Busch battled throughout the 250-lap event with eventual winner Carl Edwards and his former Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who finished second and third, respectively.

"We had a great race car, but not quite as good as those guys at the end," Busch said. "The 24 (Gordon), 48 (Johnson) and 99 (Edwards) were real strong. We knew that from the beginning and in practice.

Overall a good day -- a good solid points day for us. We'll take it. When you don't have a winning car, all you can ask for is a top-five, so it's cool. The ultimate goal is to be in first-place in points all year."

While Busch's car might not have been as strong as the three cars in front of him, it was still quite good, as evidenced by his climb through the field during the first part of the race conducted on Sunday night. Busch had to make an unscheduled pit stop under caution on lap 23 to clean the debris from the front grill of the Interstate Batteries Toyota, which was obstructing airflow to the engine and causing it to overheat. After the debris had been cleaned, Busch restarted the race in 38th on lap 25.

He wasn't back there long. In just 14 laps around the two-mile oval, Busch moved past 25 cars and into 13th.

"Our car was good all day. It just wasn't great," Busch said. "Last night, it was definitely pretty cool and we had a lot of grip on the race track. It was pretty fast."

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing