Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):
● Kyle Busch started fourth, finished first.
● After starting from the fourth position, Busch jumped to third early and made his way to the second spot in his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota by lap 12.
● Busch took over the top spot on lap 13, and only briefly relinquished the lead when he pitted on lap 31 for four tires and fuel.
● Once returning to the track, the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota again took over first with 28 laps to go.
● A late-stage caution on lap 56 brought the Toyota down pit road for four tires and fuel, and Busch maintained the top spot at the conclusion of Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):
● Started first, finished first.
● Busch dropped briefly at the start of Stage 2, but within three laps he was back to the top of the leaderboard.
● Green-flag pit stops started, and Busch brought his Toyota Camry down to pit road for four tires and fuel on lap 92 but managed to return to the track in the first position.
● Busch finished the second stage in the first position and reported he had gotten tighter the last 10 laps.
● The Interstate Batteries team went to work at the end of Stage 2, adjusting the air pressure, changing four tires and adding fuel. Unfortunately, a speeding penalty when returning to the track dropped him to the tail end of the lead lap for the start of the final stage.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 121-200):
● Started 18th, finished first.
● At the start of the final stage, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team had some work to do to get back to the front of the field, but it was evident quickly they were up for the challenge.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champ sliced his way through the field, moving up to 12th by lap 133, back into the top-10 by lap 137 and all the way up to fourth as green-flag pit stops began for the final time.
● As the laps wound down, while Busch sat in fourth, he was almost eight seconds behind the leader and needed a break to gain back the track position that was lost on the pit-road speeding penalty.
● Busch got the break he needed on lap 163 when the caution waved for debris. He came to pit road for four tires and fuel for the final time on lap 165, and the Interstate Batteries crew quickly returned Busch to the track as the first car that pitted.
● Busch lined up second on the final restart behind Ryan Blaney, who did not pit. On that restart, Blaney’s Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski slipped ahead of Busch. It didn’t take Busch long to gain his footing, passing both Logano and Keselowski at the exit of turn two on lap 175, and he never looked back, bringing home his 53rd career Cup win and his impressive 200th overall race win among NASCAR’s top three series.
● Busch won the Auto Club 400 to score his 53rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Auto Club Speedway. His margin of victory over second-place Logano was 2.354 seconds.
● This was Busch’s milestone 200th victory across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (53 wins), Xfinity Series (94 wins) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (53 wins).
● Busch led seven times for a race-high 134 laps.
● This is Busch’s fourth top-five of the season and his 10th top-five in 21 career starts at Fontana.
● With his second consecutive Cup Series win, Busch has now won back-to-back races for the fourth straight year.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
You finally did it. It’s complete. How does 200 feel?
“Feels just like number one. Feels just like yesterday. Man, that was such an awesome racecar. I mean, dang. This Interstate Batteries Camry was awesome today. I’m glad we put on a heck of a show for all these fans out here in California at Auto Club Speedway. It takes green to get in victory lane today. Today is St. Patty’s day. All these other guys were at a disadvantage. The Interstate Batteries Green Machine was flying today. Just awesome. Just awesome. To win 200, I mean, whatever it means, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to all my guys, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. You guys are all the best – Toyota, TRD. It’s an amazing opportunity to drive for Joe Gibbs. I cherish every minute of it, love it always. Just wish that we could keep it going, keep it going like this, running strong, running well and winning these races.”
When that speeding penalty happened, what was going through your mind? Did you think your chances of winning this race and getting to 200 were maybe over?
“Yeah, that thought certainly crosses your mind. I knew we had a great racecar. We had a great racecar all day long. We were fast. I wasn’t sure how well we were going to be able to come through the field, get back in traffic, get our way worked back up to the lead. Brad (Keselowski) was really fast that run, he was way out front. We were catching the 22 (Joey Logano), the 4 (Kevin Harvick). If it went green to the end, I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. Sometimes you have to a little bit of luck on your side. Fortunately, we were in the Interstate Batteries green today with it being St. Patty’s day. Cool to get all these guys in victory lane. To win my 200th race with Interstate Batteries, with Norm Miller (Interstate Batteries), Scott Miller (Interstate Batteries), everybody that does such an awesome job of supporting us since day one, the reason why Joe Gibbs Racing exists. It certainly is a monumental moment for all of us, including M&M’s, Skittles, Snickers. Maybe the stars aligned a little bit more perfectly today.”
Do you pay attention to various milestones other than this number 200 accomplishment?
“It’s something that I don’t necessarily pay attention to. As long as you’re successful and doing a good job and doing your job about what you know how to do and you’re winning those races, then you’re going to be eclipsing a lot of milestones, and certainly it’s been pretty awesome so far.”
Team Interstate Results:
● Kyle Busch (Finished 1st / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Denny Hamlin (Finished 7th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Martin Truex Jr. (Finished 8th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
● Erik Jones (Finished 19th / Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the STP 500 on Sunday, March 24 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.