Larson outruns Harvick, Busch for first Nationwide win
Fontana, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - California native Kyle Larson held off his fellow Sprint Cup Series competitors Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win his first Nationwide Series race on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway.
Larson, who is a rookie in Sprint Cup and is in his second full season in Nationwide competition this year, grabbed the lead from Harvick after a restart with 16 laps remaining. Busch chased down Larson and pulled ahead of him with six laps to go, but Larson quickly moved to the front again, leading the final five laps.
Larson's first victory in NASCAR's second-tier series came in his 38th start. He had finished second five times, including a runner-up to Busch in last weekend's race at Bristol, before capturing his maiden win.
"Those last 11 or 12 laps were the longest laps of my life," Larson said. "I could see the 54 [Busch] and the 5 [Harvick] just racing hard behind me, and they weren't getting any further back."
Larson's hometown is Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento. The 21-year- old Larson is driving the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing in Sprint Cup and the No. 42 for Turner Scott Motorsports in Nationwide this year. He won rookie of the year honors in Nationwide this past season.
"It means the world to finally get it [first Nationwide win] here in my home state of California," he said.
Larson ended Joe Gibbs Racing's streak of nine straight Nationwide race wins at this 2-mile Southern California track.
Harvick, driving the No. 5 car for JR Motorsports in this race, moved into second when Larson had passed Busch for the lead. Harvick then made several attempts to overtake Larson for the top spot but came up 0.34 seconds short at the finish.
"We had a lot of fun there at the end," Harvick said. "Obviously, you would rather win the race, but anytime you can be involved in a race like that and put on a show for the fans like we did there at the end, I guess you have some satisfaction in that. It was a good race."
Harvick, who hails from nearby Bakersfield, Calif., has yet to win a Nationwide race at his home track in 18 attempts.
Busch, who had won six of the last eight Nationwide races in Fontana, finished right behind Harvick in third. Busch had to start from the rear of the field (39th) after his car failed technical inspection several times during qualifying, which was held earlier in the day. There was an issue with the length of the wheel studs and then a problem with the rear end of his car having too much skew. He could not make a qualifying run.
"It was a great battle there and a fun race with the three of us going back and forth and trying to figure out who wanted to win the thing," Busch said. "Congrats to Kyle for coming out on top here. It was a battle there at the end that was pretty clean."
Joey Logano led 96 of 150 laps but faded late in the race to finish fourth, while Elliott Sadler, the pole sitter, took the fifth spot.
Rookie Chase Elliott rebounded from an incident with Dylan Kwasniewski, also a rookie this year, earlier in the race to finish sixth. Elliott scraped the wall when Kwasniewski bumped into and shoved him up the track.
"I ended up getting into the 31 [Kwasniewski] and getting into the wall, and what do you know, our car started handling better, so it ended up helping us out a lot," Elliott said.
Matt Kenseth, Ty Dillon, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith completed the top-10. Bayne moved into a tie with Smith for the Nationwide points lead, while Dillon is six points behind them.
03/22 21:47:32 ET