The Toyota team is strong in the NASCAR Nationwide Series events at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, and Kyle Busch proved that again! Sam Hornish still holds the points lead.
Kyle Busch kept the trend of Joe Gibbs Racing in NASCAR Nationwide Series victory lane at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday by winning the Royal Purple 300 from behind the wheel of the No. 54 JGR Toyota. It was Joe Gibbs Racing's ninth-straight series win at the track. It was also Busch's sixth win in Nationwide competition at the track and his 54th-career win to match his car number.
"You work hard, and you give it all you can," Busch said as his key to winning so often in Fontana.
Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford, didn't make it easy for Busch, though. After leading several laps, himself, at different stages of the race and seeming to have the only car able to keep up with the No. 54, Hornish took runner-up honors.
"Sam -- he's put on a whole new game this year," Busch said.
Hornish came out of Fontana still with the points lead, 28 marks ahead of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Regan Smith. Smith finished the race in the third position.
“It feels really good," Hornish said of being in command of the points lead. "We started off the year just the way we wanted to and have made sure we took care of the car throughout the first five races as well as we could. We wanted to get out of the box good and I preached that to the team in the off-season. We wanted to get through the first five races in good standing and I am real happy with the way Greg Erwin and the guys on the team have been performing and the job they are doing for me."
Early on, the race looked to be all about Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing with the two teams combining to make up the top-five of the running order. Brad Keselowski in the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford, Brian Vickers in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Elliott Sadler in the No. 11 JGR Toyota ran in the top-five with Busch and Hornish early on, but each had his issues throughout the race.
Keselowski fought an ill-handling race car that dropped him back through the field. His team worked on the car during pit stops throughout the race and then gained track position by staying out during the final caution of the race with under 40 laps to go. As a result of staying out, Keselowski was forced to go into fuel conservation mode and dropped to the bottom of the top-20 in the final laps before finishing 19th.
While Keselowski was around for the finish, Vickers was not. An overheating problem sent him down pit road and to the garage on lap 52 of the 150-lap race. "It's a shame," Vickers said. "We had a car capable of winning. We were just one adjustment away; now, we're in the garage."
Sadler, though, was able to recover at least somewhat from his mechanical woe. His ignition box caught on fire just past lap 20, and Sadler fell off the pace while he changed ignition boxes. His race got better with the new ignition box, and he was able to make his way back up toward the front to run as high as third near the halfway point of the race. He wound up inside the top-10 in seventh at the finish.
As their teammates had their issues, both Busch and Hornish kept their cars up front the entire race, spending the day running first and second for most of the event.
"Great home game for us," Busch said, pointing out that the Southern California area is home base for sponsor Monster Energy, Toyota's North American division and Toyota Racing Development.
Busch had a positive day as both a driver and a car owner in Fontana, as Parker Kligerman drove the No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to a fourth-place finish. Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.