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article imageNASCAR: Kyle and Kyle finish one-two in thrilling California race

By John Duarte     Mar 24, 2014 in Sports
Fontana - It took six laps more than originally planned, but Kyle Busch became the fifth driver on the list of winners in the Sprint Cup Series, when victories will go a long way to securing a place in the final showdown for the 2014 NASCAR championship.
“To put a winner's sticker on our roof is certainly good,” Busch said. “It gives us a little bit of – I wouldn't say relaxation, but it certainly takes the pressure off of winning and making the Chase (for the Sprint Cup).”
Tires were the story on this afternoon at California's Auto Club Speedway and no one was happier with the fact that he was racing on four new tires than Busch. He charged into the lead after the final restart of the afternoon, on Lap 205, and held off Kyle Larson to win the Auto Club 400 in a green-white-checkered flag finish. The race winner's brother Kurt Busch finished third.
Kyle Busch said he had no issues with his tires. He explained that his crew believes the cause of problems with tires during the race was likely due to low air pressure.
“We never had any issues during the whole race,” he said. “If you pour too much gas on it or let too much air out of it, the thing is going to go boom.”
The race, scheduled for 200 laps, went into overtime after a blown tire on Clint Bowyer's car caused a spin and brought out the caution flag.
Busch said he was impressed with runner-up Larson and credited NASCAR's Nationwide Series with developing drivers who can compete in Sprint Cup by saying, “It's no surprise Larson is good.” That didn't stop the race winner from being a bit surprised to see the rookie right behind him on the final lap.
“I never even saw him, never even knew he was on the race track really,” Busch said. “But there, when it comes down to crunch time and time matters most, there we were ready for the win and so was Larson.”
Busch added that he did all he could to hold Larson off down the stretch. The margin of victory was less than one quarter of a second.
“Man, what a shoe that boy is,” the race winner said. “If he would have gotten along side me, it would have been a whale of a race.”
The most disappointed driver of the afternoon was likely defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, who led the race for 104 laps before a flat tire brought what was looking like a first win on the season to a close. Johnson finished 24th.
“I had that feeling. I thought I was going to win here at my home track once again. It's just a bummer that it didn't work out,” said the reigning Sprint Cup champion. “But spring is calling, this 48 is fast and we'll come back to a very strong race track for this Lowe's Chevrolet and I hope we'll get the job done then.”
Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon currently hold the top three spots in the Sprint Cup point standings, but the new format implemented by NASCAR for this season favours race winners. This means Busch now joins Edwards, Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski as the drivers in control of the 16 available spots in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
In an interesting side note, Sam Hornish Jr. finished 17th while filling in for Denny Hamlin, who was transported to a local hospital prior to the start of the race. Hamlin was unable to drive due to a sinus infection that was affecting his vision. Hamlin was released after undergoing tests to determine the cause of his headaches and vision problems. His team released a statement saying Hamlin will be further evaluated this week. Hornish Jr. was at the trackside as a possible replacement for Matt Kenseth, whose wife was expected to go into labour at any time. Kenseth finished fourth in the race.
The STP 500 is the next event on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The race will be held at Martinsville Speedway, in Virginia, on March 30, 2014.
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