Busch will have to wait for his first win of 2015
FONTANA, Calif. – Time was not on Kurt Busch’s side on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
“We were just 20 seconds away,” Busch said after the yellow flag waved for debris on Lap 199 to send the race into overtime.
As pit problems eliminated some of his competitors and an axle issue took Matt Kenseth out of contention after he led the race 15 laps earlier, Busch took two tires and was easily able to pass the trio of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle, who gambled and stayed out after the Lap 199 caution for debris in Turn 1.
Busch stopped for fuel and two tires and lined up behind the three cars. On the restart, Busch quickly regained the lead – but before he could complete the first lap, another caution was called for debris forcing the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy to repeat the exercise again.
“I’ve seen this deal before,” Kevin Harvick told his crew. “Anyone can win this thing.”
The Stewart-Haas Racing drivers came to the green flag beside each other with Gordon, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski in tow – the latter two with four tires from the previous stop.
When the race restarted on Lap 208, Keselowski went low and passed Busch for the lead – and the win. Harvick, Busch, Menard and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.
We had a really good car, a really good race and I think we called it to the best of our ability, we were just on the wrong side of the yellow sequence at the end.
“We had a good car all day,” said Busch, who led a race-high 65 laps. “We had a race-winning Haas Automation Chevy today. We had a really good car, a really good race and I think we called it to the best of our ability, we were just on the wrong side of the yellow sequence at the end.
“When do you pit to put four tires on? When do you pit to put two tires on? That last restart, I just didn’t get the job done. Brad out-muscled us with four tires.”
Busch credited SHR with working together to provide him with a car that was capable of leading all three practices, winning the pole and leading the most laps on Sunday.
Team owner Gene Haas agreed with Busch that the cautions just didn’t fall in the No. 41 team’s favor.
He’s done a great job. We still got our work cut out for us.
“It was just kind of the way things worked out,” Haas said. “There were two cautions that kind of worked his way. NASCAR decided not to call a caution, if they had like they did at Daytona, we would have won.
“We had three chances to win it and it turned out we needed one more. He’s done a great job. We still got our work cut out for us. We still have to win here - one of these days. Maybe next week.”
With Busch’s second top-five finish in as many starts this season, the former Cup champion moved up to 28th in the point standings.